Canadian Court Rules That Linking To Defamatory Articles Isn’t Defamatory: “You may recall the story of Wayne Crookes, a Canadian businessman who is active in the Green Party in Canada. In 2007, he sued Google, Yahoo, Myspace, Wikipedia and some other sites, claiming that all were liable for content that he found defamatory. It’s somewhat interesting to try to follow the trail of what the actual libel is — as many of the lawsuits for libel are focused on stories about (you guessed it) him filing for libel lawsuits (which certainly appears to be true, rather than libelous). With at least some of those lawsuits, the Canadian Supreme Court tossed them out, though over jurisdiction issues, rather than on the merits of the case.
In one case, Crookes sued the website P2PNet for just linking to the material that Crookes found libelous. It seemed like a huge stretch to say that merely linking to content (even if you grant that it was libelous) is also libel. And, the good news is that a court has now agreed. It has sided with Jon Newton, the operator of P2PNet in noting that simply linking to libelous material is not, in itself, libelous. The ruling does note that if the link text had been libelous, that might be a different story — but just linking to the text as part of a discussion about the lawsuits is hardly libelous. This is definitely a huge win for free speech in Canada — though, Canada could take a big step forward in updating its defamation laws to make it clear that the liability for libel should be on those who actually were libelous, rather than those who host it or point to it.