In a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, the Court was unanimous in ruling that anyone who supplies a hyperlink that lead to another site has not published it for the purposes of libel and defamation law. The decision effectively gives the benefit of the doubt to internet posters who may be unaware that a site they link to could contain defamatory material about another party. The court said a hyperlink, by itself, should never be considered “publication” of the content to which it refers. But that doesn’t mean internet users shouldn’t be careful about how they present links. The court further says that if someone presents content from the hyperlinked material in a way that repeats the defamatory content, they can be considered publishers and are therefore at risk of being sued for defamation.
Judge Abella said that the ruling will promote free expression and “respect the realities of the Internet”.The Court ruled against Wayne Crookes, owner of West Coast Title Search Ltd., who sued Jon Newton, an internet blogger, over allegations that he provided hyperlinks to material that defamed Mr. Crookes and the Green Party.