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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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  • Re:How about this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by evanbd (210358) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @03:51PM (#29457987)

    That's not a link TO defamatory content, that's defamatory content in the form of a link.

    Hmm. So it is. However, I can do better; this is both: http://glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com/ [glennbeckr...in1990.com]

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @03:51PM (#29457995)

    Imagine for a second if the verdict had gone the other way. I wonder how far it would have carried. If I linked to the P2Pnet article that linked to the (allegedly) libelous content, would I be guilty of libel? After all, if linking to libelous content is libel, then surely linking to an article with "libel links" is libel too, right? What if you link to an article that links to an article that links to P2Pnet's "libel links" article?

    If that was libel too, then, say goodbye to the entire web. We're all guilty of libel. If secondary links aren't libel, do TinyURLs save you? After all, you're not actually linking to the libelous content. You're linking to TinyURL.com who is "guilty" of libel by linking to the content.

    On one hand we would have had an overreaching verdict that could have made everyone guilty of libel and on the other we would have had a verdict easily bypassed by the simplest of externally hosted redirection scripts. All in all, it's great that the judges ruled the way they did. (Though it worries me that it was a "split decision.")

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @03:59PM (#29458101) Journal
    So if linking to libellous content does not constitute a libel, then perhaps linking to material which infringes copyright would not constitute an infringement of copyright...
    The analogous case would be for the link in question to be directly to downloadable material, hosted elsewhere. A torrent tracker would probably fall into this category. If the link were to a torrent tracker which is hosted elsewhere, then it would be even less likely to be judged an infringement, based on this precedent.
  • by Shagg (99693) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @04:08PM (#29458235)

    ...then perhaps linking to material which infringes copyright would not constitute an infringement of copyright...

    As far as I know, it doesn't. But I guess that depends on what country you're in.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @04:26PM (#29458469)
    Of course this is the only possible common sense outcome, since in the alternative an opposite ruling would have banned hyperlinks altogether. This is because you never know what's on the other end of a link since the author of that page can change it at any time.

    Btw, I don't type in text links from articles. I cut & paste them, which is often necessary on stupid blog sites that break the link across lines and only include the first line as the clickable (and incomplete) hyperlink.

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