Supreme Court of Canada grants leave in internet hyperlink defamation case: Crookes v. Newton

The Supreme Court of Canada today granted leave in the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in Crookes v. Newton, 2009 BCCA 392 (BCCA)  (per Saunders and Bauman JJ.A.; Prowse, J.A. dissenting). See my backgrounder here: “I link, therefore I defame?” Not so, says the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

Here is the SCC Case Summary:

Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch) for information purposes only.

Torts – Intentional torts – Defamation – Internet hyperlinks – Publication – Whether author of website article can be presumed to have published defamatory article to which s/he has deliberately linked his/her website article – If not, circumstances under which it can be inferred that author has published hyperlinked defamatory article.

The Applicant Wayne Crookes alleges that he has been defamed in various articles which first appeared on the Internet in 2005. The Respondent, Jon Newton, owns and operates the website http://www.p2pnet.net. On July 18, 2006, he authored an article, headed “Free Speech in Canada”, which hyperlinked one of the articles, as well as the website containing the other impugned articles. Those articles, in turn, were hyperlinked to one another. Mr. Crookes takes the position that, by creating these hyperlinks, or by refusing to remove the hyperlinks when advised of their defamatory character, Mr. Newton became a publisher of the impugned articles found at the hyperlinked websites. Mr. Crookes and his company, West Coast Title Search Ltd., brought an action against Mr. Newton for damages for defamation.

The Applicant Wayne Crookes alleged that he had been defamed in various articles which first appeared on the Internet in 2005. The Respondent, Jon Newton, owned and operated a website. On July 18, 2006, he authored an article, headed “Free Speech in Canada”, which hyperlinked one of the articles, as well as the website containing the other impugned articles. Those articles, in turn, were hyperlinked to one another. Mr. Crookes took the position by creating these hyperlinks, or by refusing to remove the hyperlinks when advised of their defamatory character, Mr. Newton became a publisher of the impugned articles found at the hyperlinked websites. Mr. Crookes and his company, West Coast Title Search Ltd., brought an action against Mr. Newton for damages for defamation. The B.C.S.C. dismissed the action. The C.A. dismissed the appeal.

“Wayne Crookes et al. v. Jon Newton (B.C.) (Civil) (By Leave) (33412)
(The application for leave to appeal is granted with costs in the cause. /
La demande d’autorisation d’appel est accordée avec dépens suivant l’issue de la cause.)
Coram: McLachlin / Abella / Rothstein”

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