B.C. Court of Appeal Rules No Liability For Linking

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  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.


  1. Geezer Butler says:

    Its not a hit of acid!
    Did you happen to catch this little nugget:

    [63] There was, however, evidence that Mr. Newton’s website which contained the hyperlinks to the impugned articles had been “viewed” (a word which counsel preferred to the word “hit” for reasons which remain unclear to me)…

    “a word which counsel preferred to the word “hit” for reasons which remain unclear to me”

    That’s pretty sad this day and age. How can people who don’t understand something even be allowed to rule on something?

    Jon Newton was lucky. Very lucky considering the decision was “divided”.

    He has one more case against him for something an anon user wrote. Will he be lucky again? Will these geezers on the bench even know wtf they are reading or hearing?

    “A Hit”, very difficult to grasp word. :/ I couldn’t help but shake my head reading that.

    Also a “hit” doesn’t mean the people clicked on the link.

  2. Hyperlinking is safer from libel claims, but not by much
    Better, but still far too many loopholes, and far to much liability floating around for sane people to take.

    “Sadly, it was not a unanimous decision, with one judge actually arguing that it could be inferred that at least one person used the hyperlink, and that was enough to constitute publication, and that just having the link was enough to imply that the link was endorsed by the author (hey, there’s only billions in commerce here, important political and social discourse… what’s that in the face of someone’s unproven allegation of libel?). As a result, the plaintiff has some ammunition if he decides to head to the Supreme Court of Canada with this. He must do so within the next two months.

    One issue remains unresolved, identified by the appellate court. After receiving the legal notice from the plaintiff to remove the hyperlinks, the defendant did not do so. Unfortunately, the defendant may have liability from that point in time on. It all depends on whether the plaintiff pursues it, and what the trial judge has to say.

    No one should interpret this as meaning you can just link to anything or ignore libel notices. If you are clearly aware of what lies on the other side of the link, a judge may be less inclined to let you go. If you at all recommend what is on the other side, you are likely to be held accountable. When someone sends you a libel notice concerning a link, you are probably going to be held responsible if you do not promptly remove it.”

  3. Hal Thompson says:

    Interesting decision
    Now, the question is, how would this decision, or even could this decision be carried over to p2p, for example the isohunt case. Afterall, they’re not actually hosting the content, just linking to it.

  4. What needs to be done? How do we do it?
    I’m curious.

    How does a country or people (ie. Canada or Canadians) request changes to law?

    Its clear to me that by using ancient British laws meant to protect the king in the year 1621 (I don’t really know the dates of these ancient libel laws) doesn’t work in the 21st century, in Canada.

    How does a people or country go about updating these ancient libel/defamation laws that benefit only the person bring the charge and is also used to stifle expression or speech?

    What does a countries people do?

    I spotted this today on the BBC:
    Plan to update libel law for web
    Proposals to overhaul the libel laws and update them for the internet age have been revealed by the government.

    If they we are using ancient archaic laws from the UK, and even the UK finds they are not adequate for the times themselves, where does this leave us?

    We may as well send juveniles to “kiss the gunners daughter”, no?

  5. Torrent files are legal
    From my understanding, the ISOHunt site does not provide a direct link to any content “goods”, be it infringing or not. ISOHunt’s search engine only serves files in torrent format, which torrent authors have copyright on (not some artist nor his/her master.) A user downloading torrent files is not infringing copyright, if torrent authors have given permission – in which case they do, or else they wouldn’t have uploaded their torrent files. The infringing act begins when the user downloads infringing files directly using the torrent files.

    Google provides links directly to contents, infringing or not.

    In summary, torrent files are legal just as HTML files are legal. The ISOHunt case is a frivolous attempt by entertainment cartels to set examples for Canada’s search engine market, instead of shutting down infringing host sites.

  6. @tom – your argument makes sense to me, but it does not mean a court will see it that way.

  7. キャッシング
    新宿 内科
    銀座 眼科
    横浜 内科
    横浜 眼科
    stupid web site