Monday, October 27, 2008

p2pnet wins libel case

In a landmark ruling, a Canadian court has ruled that a web site's publication of hyperlinks to an allegedly defamatory web site is not in and of itself a 'publication', and therefore cannot in and of itself constitute defamation. In a 10-page decision (PDF), Crookes v. Wikimedia, Sup. Ct., British Columbia, Judge Kelleher dismissed the libel case against Jon Newton, the publisher of, which was based on the fact that his article contained links to the allegedly defamatory site, since hyperlinks, the Court reasoned, are analogous to footnotes, rather than constituting a 'republication'. Mr. Newton was represented in the case by famous libel, slander, and civil liberties lawyer Dan Burnett of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Commentary & discussion:

Keywords: lawyer digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property portable music player


Anonymous said...

This man sees as absolutely chilling the following words from the end of the decision:

I do not wish to be misunderstood. It is not my decision that hyperlinking can
never make a person liable for the contents of the remote site. For example, if Mr. Newton had written "the truth about Wayne Crookes is found here" and "here" is hyperlinked to the specific defamatory words, this might lead to a different conclusion.

Because a person making a hyperlink to another site not under his control cannot possibly know if an innocent link at the time it was made was changed to much more malicious content after the fact, how can anyone ever link safely to anything under this judge's reasoning - regardless of the description the linker places on the link? Answer: he can't. The Internet doesn't automatically cancel a link when the content has changed at the other and of that link (nice that it would be if that happened). The truth might have been totally benign initially and then changed to something far more libelous afterward.

This judge should rethink that last part of his logic here.

Especially since you can't even hyperlink to specific words. Only to anchor tags placed in the page by the site creator.

{The Common Man Speaking}

Unknown said...

IF you have't seen this yet, I would recommend reading up on it. BAsically a Disctrict Judge said that doing Hash mark comparisons, constituted a Search, and he threw out a case because they never obtained a search warrant before doing such.

I believe that hash checking is one of the ways SentryNet does their identification of supposedly infringing files. If this is true, then downloading the files, and doing a harsh check is an illegel search and seizure (which I know, doesn't work the same for normal people) but still, with the need to be a private investigator to do that. I think this might be very helpful.

Alfred Hermida said...

Burnett did an video interview with a j-school student and said there could be an appeal against the ruling: