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Canadian Court Rules "Hyperlink" Is Not Defamation 120

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In a landmark ruling, a Canadian court has ruled that a web site's publication of hyperlinks to an allegedly defamatory web site is not in and of itself a 'publication,' and therefore cannot in and of itself constitute defamation. In a 10-page decision [PDF], Crookes v. Wikimedia, Sup. Ct., British Columbia, Judge Keller dismissed the libel case against Jon Newton, the publisher of, which was based on the fact that his article contained links to the allegedly defamatory site, since hyperlinks, the Court reasoned, are analogous to footnotes, rather than constituting a 'republication.' Mr. Newton was represented in the case by famous libel, slander, and civil liberties lawyer Dan Burnett of Vancouver, British Columbia."
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Canadian Court Rules "Hyperlink" Is Not Defamation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2008 @07:19PM (#25534967)

    This ruling is soooo much easier to read than American (US) judge's rulings. When I had my little biz law class, most of the rulings had to be interpreted by the attorney teaching the class (i.e. "this is what the judge meant.")

    The Canadian ruling, OTH, is in English. Go figure.

    Is it because, the US Bar Association is protecting its members by making the legal "language" aka Legalese hard to understand or is because most US judges are fucking retarded and can't put a coherent sentence together?

  • Re:Of course not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Monday October 27, 2008 @07:20PM (#25534981) Journal

    Of course it isn't just as telling someone that there is a book that says Hitler is a bad guy isn't saying it yourself even if it's true.

    It's informing someone of a resource not defaming someone.

    Let me suggest that you read all the way to the end of the decision -- context is everything. The judge essentially said that the context in which you put the link is the critical factor:

    [34] I do not wish to be misunderstood. It is not my decision that hyperlinking can never make a person liable for the contents of the remote site. For example, if Mr. Newton had written "the truth about Wayne Crookes is found here" and "here" is hyperlinked to the specific defamatory words, this might lead to a different conclusion.

  • by GuldKalle ( 1065310 ) on Monday October 27, 2008 @07:34PM (#25535143)

    Regardless, the issue in this case is not how accessible the website is, but rather, if anyone followed the hyperlinks posted on the p2pnet site. Without proof that persons other than the plaintiff visited the defendant's website, clicked on the hyperlinks, and read the articles complained of, there cannot be a finding of publication.

    So, if I publish libel in my newspaper, anyone wishing to sue me must prove that someone actually read that particular article?

  • Newspapers have audited circulation. Websites do not. For example, a newspaper may have an audited circulation of 23,000. That means if an article is deemed libelous, it's assumed the newspaper was delivered to 23,000 homes where people had a chance to read it.

    With newspapers, it's assumed that people have read the libelous article. That's when other defences come into play such as fair comment, prior publication, etc.

    Conclusion: Don't put counters on your website, and don't keep an IP log.

  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Monday October 27, 2008 @07:51PM (#25535317) Journal

    No, but they must prove that you actually published the paper. The ruling is more like saying that if a newspaper mentions a book which contains libel, the newspaper is not liable for it because they never published it anyway, unless they also distributed copies of the book with the paper.

    IMO, a bigger concern is actually that there is no control of precisely what lies on the other side of a hyperlink... if I put one on my site, and 6 months from now, long after I've likely forgotten about it, the owner of the linked ite decides to put up libel, where does that leave me? Fortunately, I think this ruling would pretty well stifle any attempt to hold somebody liable for that, but the fact that this was ever in question is somewhat disturbing.

  • by schon ( 31600 ) on Monday October 27, 2008 @08:48PM (#25535789)

    Most Canadian judges are as bad, if not worse, than American judges, when it comes to understanding the "Internets."

    Do you have any references for that?

    The only other "internets" case I've heard of was the P2P case, wherein the judge told the CRIA to collectively get stuffed.

    Now, this isn't exactly scientific, but if you could cite other internet (or technology) related cases that were wrong, I'd appreciate being enlightened.

  • The loser will just take this case to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The rules of evidence and law don't apply. The truth is not a defense. Your chance of successfully defending yourself against the most outlandish charge is almost nonexistent.

    Example. Magazine published a review of a book critical of islam. Someone charged the magazine with a human rights violation. Years of hearings costing a bundle of money and the only reason they didn't lose was because of the huge amount of publicity that particular case received. This was the ONLY time someone did not lose against the CHRC.

    Google on the subject and be amazed.

  • Re:Of course not (Score:2, Interesting)

    by collinstocks ( 1295204 ) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:35PM (#25537017) Journal

    IANAL, so what if you claim something is true and link to it (assuming it is perfectly valid content), but then the content changes such that it can be ruled defamatory? Can you then be responsible if you do not change your link right away?

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson