The Supreme Court of Canada has decided to hear an appeal in a lawsuit that wishes to prove that hyperlinking constitutes publication, and that hyperlinkers can be thus be prosecuted for defamation.
From the Montreal Gazette:
Vancouver businessman Wayne Crookes… alleges that writer Jon Newton defamed him by linking to reputation-smearing articles in a 2006 post about free speech on his website.
And isn’t it ironic?
Crookes has tried to make the case that by making the links and then not breaking them when informed that they were libelous, Newton published them by inaction.
Courts in British Columbia ruled against Crookes in 2008, saying “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.”
Needless to say, an Internet where you could be liable for the content of anything you link to as if you had created it yourself is a scary thought. The United States has granted hyperlink immunity (also the name of my next album) since 1996. Hopefully the Canadian Supreme Court will also uphold such an important cornerstone of internet dialogue.
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