An interesting ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada that could’ve impacted the way you blog. The case was between Wayne Crookes, President and sole shareholder of West Coast Title Search and former Green Party Campaign manager, and blogger Jon Newton. The suit challenged that hyperlinks from Newton’s blog about the Green’s to another website with actual content that allegedly defamed the Party. Crookes argued that articles online with links to the content represented a “smear campaign” against him and other members of the Green Party of Canada.
How does the ruling impact your blogging?
Had the SCC ruled that hyperlinking was a form of publication, you could be liable for the things you link to (and what about blog comments?)
In this instance they determined that hyperlinks are like footnotes, and are not publications. That doesn’t mean you can post and link to whatever you want. There is still some due care on the authors part to watch what they say.
Interesting components of the case, the fact the article itself was relatively small with little traffic seemed to influence the decision that it would be difficult to even prove anybody visited the alleged defamatory content through Newton’s website. Does that mean popular websites with lots of traffic are under different pressures to watch who they link to? And why couldn’t the SCC acquire analytics for the website in question. Any normal Analytics or log file will show precisely who came to a website and from where (including IP).
I digress. Freedom of speech is safe for now and bloggers can rest assured their hyper-linking out won’t be classified as publications and thus guilty of libel.