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Does hyperlinking constitute defamation?
April 4, 2010 1:36 PM   Subscribe

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case deciding whether or not posting a link to allegedly defamatory material constitutes defamation itself. The complainant lost his case in 2008 at the British Columbia Court of Appeal. The complainant has launched various lawsuits in the past against numerous websites and blogs; all have been unsuccessful thus far. [Previously, RE: a similar case in Australia]
posted by modernnomad (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
So... this utterly removes the ability to talk about things on a meta-level, because you're not allowed to actually use examples of the things you are discussing?

I can see not wanting to continue to spread defamatory material, but this somehow feels wrong. How will they be able to even try this case? Surely anyone arguing the case will have to submit examples to the court as evidence. Do they then get arrested for spreading defamation?
posted by hippybear at 1:44 PM on April 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know who else posts links to allegedly defamatory material.
posted by three blind mice at 1:45 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perez Hilton?
posted by hippybear at 1:46 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


My sense is that (as a lawyer who used to practice constitutional law in Canada) that the Court has agreed to hear the case simply as an opportunity to make a definitive statement on the law (they do this from time to time -- the fact that have granted leave to appeal in no way speaks to the merits of the complainant's case). I don't expect he will be successful in his appeal.
posted by modernnomad at 1:58 PM on April 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


So can I be sued for posting this link, which has absolutely no information detailing hippybear force-feeding hot tar to every living Nobel Prize winner?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 2:27 PM on April 4, 2010


This is one of my favorite commentaries about internet defamation. I'd like to suggest it also applies to the gentleman, one Wayne Crookes, who is bringing the appeal under discussion. (Additionally, the gentleman in question should really have considered adopting a different name before getting into politics. No wonder he's getting defamed on the internet.)
posted by Caduceus at 3:11 PM on April 4, 2010


See also Barrett v. Rosenthal, the tl:dr summary of which (according to my not-a-lawyer brain, and with an attempt to minimise the injection of my personal VERY STRONG OPINIONS about its correctness) is that according to the California Supreme Court, even if you explicitly and deliberately repost defamatory material on the Internet, you are not guilty of defamation.

If you try to stop people from (according to you) defaming you in that way, they can anti-SLAPP you for it, and then keep on reposting something some other dude wrote that says you're a very bad person.
posted by dansdata at 3:39 PM on April 4, 2010


If you try to stop people from (according to you) defaming you in that way, they can anti-SLAPP you for it, and then keep on reposting something some other dude wrote that says you're a very bad person.

Attack, my sock-puppet minions!
posted by Avelwood at 4:53 PM on April 4, 2010


Glenn Beck did WHAT in 1990?

Just phrase everything as a question and it's all cool.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:24 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


My sense is that the Court has agreed to hear the case simply as an opportunity to make a definitive statement on the law...

IANAL and that was my initial impression, or something like it. I think this is a notable story, but that "agreed to hear" should have been emphasized more in the original writeup instead of the doomy-gloomy tone.
posted by Evilspork at 5:32 PM on April 4, 2010


I kind of thought if you phrased your statements as "This is what I believe" or "This is what I think" that this kind of thing can't happen. People can't be prosecuted for their beliefs, as long as its framed in a certain way. There is a far cry from saying "This is the way it is, folks" and "This is how I see it, folks." I'm ignorant on that law in that regard, I admit.

I like to think modernomad has the right idea and this is indeed just a way of taking it to the highest level just to prove stuff like this won't fly.

Regardless, if this does set any kind of precedent contrary to what I think (ha!) most of us hope, then the proverbial can of worms will certainly open the hell up.
posted by deacon_blues at 6:06 PM on April 4, 2010


You know who else posts links to allegedly defamatory material.

Perez Hilton?


Modwined
posted by Kirk Grim at 7:13 PM on April 4, 2010


What about links to pics of comments by usernames of codes of DRM hacks on websites accessible in countries where this isn't not un-A-OK?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:32 PM on April 4, 2010


I would think that posting to a link would constitute hear-say, on the same level as "Look, this person is saying X about Y...". I've seen numerous blogs, as we all have, that do this. Let's see how intelligent these judges are...
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 7:39 PM on April 4, 2010


Hypothetical: Let's say I link to some webpage somewhere that is not defamatory at all. Some time after I link to it, the author inserts defamatory statements without my knowledge. What then?

Answer: The Green Party eats babies.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:40 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, wait, seriously, dude is suing Wikipedia? That's double dumb.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:42 PM on April 4, 2010


Just phrase everything as a question and it's all cool.

Fox news used to do this all the time. (I haven't seen Fox news in a while, so they may still be doing it)

"Barack Obama: Gay Soviet sleeper agent?"

See, they're not saying that's true, they're just responding to the question! The question that only mental patients ask. They're just teaching the controversy!

"Is fourcheesemac common law married to a Japanese love pillow named 'Adolf Hitler?' We don't know, but it is a question worth asking."
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:50 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uppity Pigeon #2: "Just phrase everything as a question and it's all cool.

Fox news used to do this all the time. (I haven't seen Fox news in a while, so they may still be doing it)

"Barack Obama: Gay Soviet sleeper agent?"

See, they're not saying that's true, they're just responding to the question!
"

"Fox has figured out that by simply putting a question mark at the end of something, you can say fucking anything."
posted by Rhaomi at 10:47 PM on April 4, 2010


Metafilter user Rhaomi: Is his making me suddenly realize that I accidentally ripped off a Daily Show bit I saw years ago hurting America?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 10:58 PM on April 4, 2010


The question mark thing is fine when you understand the basic rule: if the headline is a question, the answer is no.
posted by alasdair at 5:13 AM on April 5, 2010


The answer to this question: true?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2010


You know who else posts links to allegedly defamatory material.

Okay, I'll say it.

Metafilter: posting links to allegedly defamatory material
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:14 PM on April 5, 2010


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