Hyperlinking to allegedly defamatory material can’t be construed as publishing it, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.
“The internet cannot, in short, 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,” the panel decided.
“The potential ‘chill’ in how the internet functions could be devastating, since primary article authors would unlikely want to risk liability for linking to another article over whose changeable content they have no control.”
Or as Logan put it in a in a Readers Write, “Jon, Liz and everyone else, grab a bottle of bubbly and go to town!!!
“The Supreme Court has decided UNANIMOUSLY, yes I said, UNANIMOUSLY that INTERNET LINKS ARE
I was up at 5:30 AM find out whether or not the Canadian justice system had let me down in Crookes vs Newton, the notorious Internet hyperlinking case.”
But this morning of all mornings, I couldn’t go online. But this is nothing new and in the meanwhile, I didn’t know if I owed Wayne Crookes a lot of money in damages because the Canadian Supreme Court justices has found in his favour.
We couldn’t discover what the problem was because enquiries to Shaw, my ISP produced only “we are experiencing a higher than normal volume of calls”. However, a call from the CBC revealed I’ d won.
As I told the reporter, I felt vindicated. It was an indication that Canada is a place where freedom speech prevails.
When I finally did manage to get a connection, the nice lady on the other end explained it was a provision issue, whatever that means.
Shaw has been doing ‘ upgrades’ in our area I was tuned into the CBC as we drove our daughter, Emma, to the school bus, but there was nothing on the case.
At just gone seven o’clock, I was still none the wiser — until I got a call from Jennifer at Shaw tech support telling me I was back online.
“Man, I’d love to see ol’ Crookes face this morning when he gets the decision”, said Logan going on .
“It should wipe the smug look off his face once and for all.
“He gambled the whole wad and came up craps. Here’s the link to the decision and now it’s safe to say, “CONGRATULATIONS TO JON and his lawyer who stood up for Freedom of Speech against a bully, who thought that he could say that linking to a story that put him in unfavorable light was the same as publishing.
For now, Wayne Crookes, wants me to pay him what will be, if he gets his way, an inordinate amount of money for something I haven’t done”, I wrote just after the hearing, continuing,
“Others of them, a panel of legal experts chosen for their wisdom and knowledge of Canada’s archaic defamation laws, were to decide if that’d happen.
The setting was the federal Supreme Court of Canada.
‘Awesome’ is a word much-over used in the 21st digital century. But in this instance, it can be accurately applied.
The presiding judges had an opportunity no Canadians have ever had before.– the awesome responsibility of confirming to the world, clearly and unequivocally, that Canada is somewhere people can speak their minds openly and without fear, as it’s said to be; or, they’ll allow Crookes to prevail, in which case they’ll bring a dark shroud down on Canada.
Black hole in CyberSpace
A while back, a mainstream media reporter asked me what the case meant to me.
“The ability to refer to something by linking to it is as fundamental to the Internet – to the newest media – as computers themselves”, I said among other things. “Without it, the net becomes a void — a black hole in CyberSpace.”
For millions of other Canadians the internet means freedom — freedom to communicate with each other, freedom to learn, freedom to share, freedom to explore, freedom to say what they want, when they want, without fear, I said.
And I truly believe that.
I’m a very ordinary person — a father with a wife and a daughter. And this is all about the rights of ordinary people.
Was I nervous at the hearing? Extremely. But I didn’t have a choice. I’ve been writing about freedom of speech for years and when Crookes demanded I take down a link to a link which linked to online posts which he claims defamed him, the only thing I could do was refuse.
And I’d do it again.
But having said that, I don’t believe my refusal amounts to anything special. It wasn’t a deliberate act of defiance initiated by me. The article in which the contested link featured was talking about freedom of speech. My refusal to remove the link sprang directly from my philosophy that information not only should be, but must be, freely shared.
But I should also make it clear I believe in freedom of speech within commonly agreed bounds of decency and morality.
Meanwhile, I just happened to be the one Crookes targeted for linking — and only linking — among a flood of other defamation cases he’d launched.
Freedom to link
On December 8, I was in a room with more than just a few lawyers, many (most?) of them, representing corporations such as Google, eBay and Yahoo, They were there because, to be blunt, a decision in Crookes’ favourWould have had a potentially disastrous affect on the vast commercial interests which depend on free linking.
However, also present will be people who care about freedom of speech for itself, such as the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), Canadian Civil Liberties Association, BC Civil Liberties Association.
Arguing directly against Crookes’ legal representatives on my behalf and, by default, for you as well, will be my lawyer, Dan Burnett, a brilliant media specialist. And he’ll be doing that without pay.
For me, it was an experience I would definitely rather not Have had, and it weighed on me.
Will online freedom of speech survive in Canada?
Now we know.
Hyperlinking to allegedly defamatory material can’t be construed as publishing it, the Supreme Court has ruled.
I’ll publish the decision in full tomorrow.
Cheers! And thanks …
Jon Newton – p2pnet