The B.C. Court of Appeal has issued an important new ruling on the prospect of liability for linking to allegedly defamatory content. Crookes v. Newton involved Wayne Crookes, who has filed several Internet defamation suits (including one against me) and Jon Newton, publisher of P2Pnet.net. A divided court upheld a lower court ruling that there was no publication in merely linking to content and therefore no liability. The majority of the court ruled:
there is, in my view, no substantial difference between providing a web address and a mere hyperlink. Whether the hyperlink is a web address, as is often the case, or a more specific reference, both require a decision on the part of the reader to access another website, and both require the reader to take a distinct action, in the one case typing in a web address and in the other case clicking on the hyperlink. In other words, there is a barrier between the accessed article and the hyperlinked site that must be bridged, not by the publisher, but by the reader. The essence of following a hyperlink is to leave the website one was at to enter a different and independent website.
There remain several outstanding cases before the B.C. courts involving Internet-based defamation.