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Canadian Court of Appeals Decides Website Linking Isn't Libelous 75

Posted by timothy
from the reelect-that-man dept.
inject_hotmail.com writes "I found this promising news over on Michael Geist's website: In an amazing display of wisdom and understanding, British Columbia (Canada) court of appeals (in a split decision) decided that it is not libelous to link to defamatory content. The judge stated that 'there is, in my view, no substantial difference between providing a web address and a mere hyperlink. Whether the hyperlink is a web address, as is often the case, or a more specific reference, both require a decision on the part of the reader to access another website, and both require the reader to take a distinct action, in the one case typing in a web address and in the other case clicking on the hyperlink. In other words, there is a barrier between the accessed article and the hyperlinked site that must be bridged, not by the publisher, but by the reader. The essence of following a hyperlink is to leave the website one was at to enter a different and independent website.' The case was brought about by B.C. businessman Wayne Crookes, who claimed that p2pnet had damaged his character by linking to websites with which he did not agree. Presumedly, the website with the actual content in question is outside of the purview of the Canadian courts; however, p2pnet is not."
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Canadian Court of Appeals Decides Website Linking Isn't Libelous

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  • by Starlon (1492461) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @05:02PM (#29458927)
    Well, I think the argument is not that the laws are similar particularly, but rather a "barrier between the accessed article and the hyperlinked site... must be bridged, not by the publisher, but by the reader." If the website only hosts a hyperlink pointing to copyrighted material, than it should by no means constitute copyright infringement. Or so this decision implies by stating that "Mr. Newton's use of a hyperlink to the openpolitics and usgovernetics sites where the impugned articles are found did not amount to publication by him of the hyperlinked articles." It only implies that, however, if "publication" of an article and "make available" copyrighted material can be deemed similar. I think we can both agree that the mechanism of a URL remains similar in both scenarios.
  • Re:Flamebait (Score:3, Informative)

    by Imagix (695350) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @05:15PM (#29459097)
    Um... Why is there even mention of the Harper government (Federal) when this was the BC Court of Appeal (Provincial)? You'd want to poke at the Campbell government.
  • by mqduck (232646) <mqduckNO@SPAMmqduck.net> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @05:31PM (#29459309)

    Imagine for a second if the verdict had gone the other way. I wonder how far it would have carried.

    It did go the other way, and it got as far as the Court of Appeals.

  • by mrdtr (1343377) on Friday September 18, 2009 @01:31AM (#29462841)

    [19] Key passages from the trial judgeâ(TM)s reasons with respect to the issue of whether hyperlinking in this case amounted to the publication of the defamatory articles by Mr. Newton are paras. 29-31, as follows:

              [29] A hyperlink is like a footnote or a reference to a website in printed material such as a newsletter [as in Carter]. The purpose of a hyperlink is to direct the reader to additional material from a different source. The only difference is the ease with which a hyperlink allows the reader, with a simple click of the mouse, to instantly access the additional material.

              [30] Although a hyperlink provides immediate access to material published on another website, this does not amount to republication of the content on the originating site. This is especially so as a reader may or may not follow the hyperlinks provided.

              [31] I conclude that the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in Carter leads to the same conclusion on the narrower issue before me. Readers of a newsletter, whether in paper form or online, who read of a reference to a third party website, may go to that website. I conclude that that does not make the publisher of the web address a publisher of what readers find when they get there.

    [20] The trial judge emphasized that Mr. Newton did not publish any defamatory material in his own article on the p2pnet website; he did not reproduce any of the content from the impugned articles; and he did not comment on them. The trial judge adopted the proposition found in MacFadden v. Anthony, 117 N.Y.S. 2d 520 (Sup. Ct. 1952), and Klein v. Biben, 296 N.Y. 638, 69 N.E. 2d 682 (Ct. App. 1946), that âoereference to an article containing defamatory content without repetition of the comment itself should not be found to be a republication of such defamatory contentâ.

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