BC Supreme Court Rules That Linking To Illegal Content Is Not the Same As Publishing

BC Supreme Court Rules That Linking To Illegal Content Is Not the Same As Publishing
The BC Supreme Court has made a landmark ruling that merely linking to an article does not amount to publication, a decision that’s a big win for free speech and could set a precedent in future file-sharing suits.

The ruling stems from a case involving Vancouver businessman and former Green Party organizer Wayne Crookes, who began launching lawsuits against Google, Wikipedia and several blogs in 2006, charging that they allowed users to anonymously post defamatory content about him. In Crookes's legal actions, he also sued file-trading site p2pnet, which didn’t publish any nasty remarks about him but only linked to allegedly defamatory material on other websites.

As both Tiny Mix Tapes and Idolator point out, BC Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher has now ruled in favour of p2pnet, saying that linking to defamatory content is not the same as publishing it, and subsequently leading the judge to dismiss the case against p2pnet.

"Although a hyperlink provides immediate access to material published on another website, this does not amount to republication of the content on the originating site,” Kelleher said in his ruling. "This is especially so as a reader may or may not follow the hyperlinks provided.”

In an online statement by Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic director Philippa Lawson, she says: "This is a very important precedent for internet law in Canada, confirming that website operators are not responsible for defamatory content on other websites to which they have merely linked. It's also big win for free speech and for the internet as we know it."

On top of this, the court decision is also be big victory for file-sharing sites in general. Since BitTorrent sites publish nothing themselves and only link to files hosted elsewhere, they appear to be in the legal clear — news which pleases those who enjoy trolling for free downloads.