Post Tagged with: "defamation"

Lawsuits Put Online Free Speech At Risk

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the defamation lawsuits launched in British Columbia by Wayne Crookes against a who's who of the Internet, including Yahoo!, MySpace, and Wikipedia.  Those companies are accused of defaming Crookes not by virtue of anything they have said, but rather by permitting their users to post or link to articles that are allegedly defamatory.

The lawsuits could prove to be critically important to the Internet in Canada, because they cast the net of liability far wider than just the initial posters.  Indeed, the lawsuits seek to hold accountable sites and services that host the articles, feature comments about the articles, include hyperlinks to the articles, fail to actively monitor their content to ensure that allegedly defamatory articles are not reposted after being removed, and even those that implement the domain name registrations of sites that host the articles.

The common link with all of these targets is that none are directly responsible for alleged defamation.  Rather, the Crookes lawsuits maintain that Internet intermediaries should be held equally responsible for such content.

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April 30, 2007 18 comments Columns

Lawsuits Put Online Free Speech At Risk

Appeared in the Toronto Star on April 30, 2007 as Lawsuits Put Online Free Speech At Risk Despite garnering only limited media attention, two recently filed defamation lawsuits in British Columbia have the potential to reshape free speech on the Internet in Canada.  The suits pit Wayne Crookes, a B.C.-based […]

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April 30, 2007 8 comments Columns Archive

Canadian Libel Law Raises Net Free Speech Chill

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, BBC international version, homepage version) places the spotlight on this week’s fundraiser in support of, a British Columbia-based website that is being sued for defamation for comments posted on the site by its readers.  The importance of the Internet intermediary liabilty issue extends well beyond just Internet service providers – corporate websites that allow for user feedback, education websites featuring chatrooms, or even individual bloggers who permit comments face the prospect of demands to remove content that is alleged to violate the law.

The difficult question is not whether these sites and services have the right to voluntarily remove offending content if they so choose – no one doubts that they do – but rather whether sites can be compelled to remove allegedly unlawful or infringing content under threat of potential legal liability.  The answer is not as straightforward as one might expect since Canadian law varies depending on the type of content or the nature of the allegations. 

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July 31, 2006 4 comments Columns

UK Court Rules on ISP Liability

The UK Court, Queen’s Bench division issued an important decision on the liability of Internet service providers late last week.  Unlike the U.S., which established statutory immunity for intermediaries where they simply provide the forum for publication, Commonwealth countries such as the UK, Canada, and Australia still rely on common law principles leaving some question about the standard of liability for intermediaries for allegedly defamatory content posted on their sites.

Bunt v. Tilley involved an attempt to hold AOL, Tiscali, and British Telecom liable for allegedly defamatory postings.  The claimant relied on the Godfrey v. Demon Internet case to argue that the court could hold the ISPs liable.  That case has generated concern among ISPs in Canada as it does hold out the prospect for liability.  The court was clearly uncomfortable with that decision, however, issuing a decision that was generally sympathetic to the ISPs.

In particular, the court concluded that "an ISP which performs no more than a passive role in facilitating postings on the internet cannot be deemed to be a publisher at common law." That is the good news as it provides some comfort to ISPs who can rely on this case to argue that they are not liable for doing nothing more than hosting content.

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March 14, 2006 2 comments News

The Long Arm of Canadian Internet Law

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, freely available hyperlinked column) reviews the Bangoura and Burke cases, the  two recent Canadian Internet jurisdiction decisions involving the Washington Post and New York Post. The Ontario Court of Appeal declined to assert jurisdiction in the Bangoura case, expressing concern that "to […]

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September 25, 2005 Comments are Disabled Columns