CIPPIC granted leave to intervene in Crookes v. Newton
Today, the Supreme Court of Canada granted CIPPIC leave to intervene in Crookes v. Newton. The case, on appeal from the B.C. Court of Appeal, has raised the issue of whether and under what circumstances posting a hyperlink to online content that contains defamatory statements can amount to publication of that content. The plaintiff, Crookes, argues that posting a hyperlink draws the reader's attention to any defamatory statements contained in the linked article and this is sufficient to impose liability on the poster of the link. He argues further that, by nature and convention, by posting a hyperlink the author of an article intends to incorporate the linked content into the original article.
CIPPIC intends to argue that, while it recognizes the need to protect reputation in the online world, imposing liability on individuals for posting hyperlinks strikes the wrong balance and will chill free expression. The proposed rule will make it the responsibility of all individuals to ensure there is no defamatory content in any underlying content before linking to it. Yet the purpose of hyperlinks is to act as a reference to further, relevant information. By merely posting a hyperlink, an author neither adopts nor endorses the linked content. The author may not even be aware of the defamatory content. To force on Facebook or Twitter to make sure there is no defamatory content before posting a link or face potential law suits could dramatically change the way people communicate online.