Supreme Court of Canada: Hyperlinking Ain’t No Crime
Canada’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that hyperlinking to libelous or defamatory material on the internet does not equal publishing that material itself.
The ruling is meant to alleviate any “chill” for online publishers, who may not be totally aware of the content in the links they publish.
In the decision, Madam Justice Rosalie Abella wrote:
“The internet cannot, in short, provide access to information without hyperlinks. Limiting their usefulness by subjecting them to the traditional publication rule would have the effect of seriously restricting the flow of information and, as a result, freedom of expression.
“The potential ‘chill’ in how the internet functions could be devastating, since primary article authors would unlikely want to risk liability for linking to another article over whose changeable content they have no control.”
The ruling is in response to a BC court case, in which former a former Green Party campaign manager sued an internet blogger for providing hyperlinks to allegedly defamatory material. It’s being widely hailed as an important win for internet freedom of expression.
The Globe and Mail has more about the case, including a PDF download of the entire decision.