Saturday, June 02, 2012

Bloggers: "Phew!"

{Posted on Bene Diction Blogs On Oct 21. 2011] A Supreme Court of Canada decision earlier this week will have an interesting impact on blogging, and on the Internet in genera Wayne Crookes, a former Green Party campaign manager, had pursed lawsuits against Google, MySpace and Wikipedia. He argue that not only printing defamatory items was libelous, but so was hyperlinking to those items, so that your website or blog's readers could read them themselves, if they so choose--and make up their own minds--should be considered to be publishing a libel too. Crookes' defendants had won in lower courts, and on Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld these rulings with a ruling of its own. Rosalie Abella, writing on behalf of the majority of the court, wrote that hyperlinks are essentially references. [Perhaps, I would say, like footnotes in a book]. Reports the Canadian Lawyer magazine's website: “A hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as ‘publication’ of the content to which it refers. When a person follows a hyperlink to a secondary source that contains defamatory words, the actual creator or poster of the defamatory words in the secondary material is the person who is publishing the libel. Only when a hyperlinker presents content from the hyperlinked material in a way that actually repeats the defamatory content, should that content be considered to be ‘published’ by the hyperlinker,” says the decision. While dissenters Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin and Morris Fish generally agree with Abella’s ruling, they differ on the heart of the matter saying: “However, a hyperlink should constitute publication if, read contextually, the text that includes the hyperlink constitutes adoption or endorsement of the specific content it links to. A mere general reference to a website is not enough to find publication.” Later, as quoted in the story. Abella explains her rationale: She goes on to point out that: “The Internet cannot . . . provide access to information without hyperlinks. Limiting their usefulness by subjecting them to the traditional publication rule would have the effect of seriously restricting the flow of information and, as a result, freedom of expression.” In the end, Abella says this ruling does not necessarily apply to all types of links on the Internet, particularly as it is constanlty changing. “The reality of the Internet means that we are dealing with the inherent and inexorable fluidity of evolving technologies. As a result, it strikes me as unwise in these reasons to attempt to anticipate, let alone comprehensively address, the legal implications of the varieties of links that are or may become available. Embedded or automatic links, for example, may well prove to be of consequence in future cases, but these differences were not argued in this case or addressed in the courts below, and therefore need not be addressed here.” I believe that was a big concern of bloggers primarily from the right, who were concerned about libel chill even if they tried to discuss issues in a careful way. Being able to write "Go look for yourself" is a very useful Internet tool. One thing that I may guess will be important is that how you describe your hyperlink would be key. That could be tricky for a blogger who wants to find a way to link without creating their own defamation. Time will tell how the courts see that issue... This linked material proves that Rick Hiebert is the singing, dancing anti-Christ. would thus be trickier than The author of the blog "Rick Hiebert is the singing, dancing anti-Christ" really dislikes me! Of course, they say that truth is an iron-clad defence in libel cases. :)