Wide-open freedom of speech on the Internet is something many of us take for granted.
But the fact is the status quo exists simply because the Internet is new enough that lawyers haven’t had enough time to fully sink their teeth into it.
Last week, a landmark Supreme Court case took a big step towards enshrining part of ‘net freedom’ into law.
We’d imagine a large percentage of you have engaged in the process of hyperlinking. For those who don’t know the jargon, hyperlinking is the practice of providing others with an Internet link that will send someone to a website with the click of a mouse.
That funny YouTube video you posted on your Facebook page? That website address you e-mailed to your friend to show her the trailer for the new Twilight movie? The list of results that showed up when you googled Gadhafi? Those are hyperlinks.
Did you ever stop to wonder what could happen to you if what was on those links turned out to be slanderous lies? Did you ever consider that by spreading those lies, you might be guilty of slander?
The Supreme Court of Canada says you don’t have to.
Lake Cowichan’s Jon Newton posted links on his website that slandered a Vancouver man.
The court essentially ruled that by posting the links, Newton did not repeat the defamatory material, he just told people where to find it. And that while people need to be able to defend themselves from Internet slander, shutting down the web is not one of the weapons they should use.
Imagine if Google could be sued for everything the search engine potentially turned up. It would no longer be in business. And that would essentially shut down the way we use the web.
The court’s decision was a good one.
– Cowichan NewsLeader