‘Linking to offensive site is not defamation’ – legal precedent set in BC court

As many Canadian bloggers are being targetted for ‘lawfare’ – using real courts or the semi-judicial (but just as legally binding) Human Rights Commission/Tribunals in order to bully them with the threat of stressful, expensive and long-term legal battle – we have a legal precedent that might serve to curb at least some of these.

For example, Kathy Shaidle of Five Feet of Fury  is being dragged in front of the HRC for having linked to a site which contained something that was ‘potentially offensive’.  She, and many others like her, may now have a new weapon in their defense:  the precedent set in a BC court (a real court – unsurprisingly, is not as random as the HRCs!).

In this case, Jon Newton (p2pnet) was being sued for publishing a link – the argument being that the link itself constituted ‘re-publishing’ the offensive material. 

From p2pnet, in his own words:

Following a landmark decision by British Columbia Supreme Court judge Stephen Kelleher, p2pnet is the victor in a case in which Vancouver businessmen Wayne Crookes, once an important federal Green Party of Canada official, tried to claim I defamed him by linking to articles he didn’t like.

That amounted to publication,  he maintained.

The full decision can be found here (from p2pnet) and the actual pdf is here.

An excellent summary can be found at ‘EXCESS COPYRIGHT’:

Essentially, the Court held that a link is much the same as a footnote, except a lot more convenient.

Congratulations to both Mr. Jon Newton and his lawyer, Mr. Dan Burnett!  And, Judge Kelleher – well done!