Landing : Athabascau University

Supreme Court of Canada Stands Up for the Internet: No Liability for Linking

Michael Geist reports an "enormous win for the Internet" today:

The Supreme Court of Canada today issued its much anticipated ruling in Crookes v. Newton, a case that focused on the issue of liability for linking to allegedly defamatory content. The court provided a huge win for the Internet as it clearly understood the significance of linking to freedom of expression and the way the Internet functions by ruling that there is no liability for a mere hyperlink. [...] This is an enormous win for the Internet since it rightly recognizes that links are just digital references that should not be viewed as republication of the underlying content. (Emphasis added)

Geist's fellow copyright freedom fighter Howard Knopf notes what this means for Access Copyright's proposed tariff, which (as you may recall) had proposed demanding documentation of and payment for any and all linking in Canadian education (no, I'm not exaggerating):

This decision bodes well for the objectors to Access Copyright’s proposed post-secondary tariff [which] defines a “copy” as including a digital copy “made by or as a consequence” of “posting a link or hyperlink to a Digital Copy”. It also goes on to include a demand for payment for any required or recommended readings that are “(i) emailed, linked or hyperlinked to, or  (ii) posted, uploaded to, or stored, on a Secure Network.”

Access Copyright also wants the right to audit the secure networks inside universities, including professors’ emails, to monitor such links and hyperlinks.

Today’s decision should be sufficient to dispose of this controversial element of the proposed Access Copyright tariff. If a link or hyperlink by itself does not constitute “publication” for defamation purposes, it is difficult to see how it could, by itself, constitute publication or reproduction or any other activity covered by the Copyright Act.


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