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The Canadian Bar Association

Ryan Van Horne

Libel law

Crookes revisited: the law of libel around internet links

By Ryan Van Horne January 5, 2018 5 January 2018

Crookes revisited: the law of libel around internet links

 

Does publishing a hyperlink amount to libel? Not unless the person publishing it repeats the original defamatory content.

That’s what Halifax-based Frank Magazine has been arguing, relying on the 2011 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Crookes v. Newton, which found that hyperlinks are content neutral. The satire publication asked a Halifax court to dismiss two of the four counts it faces of violating a publication ban in a child-protection case.

The two charges stem from tweets in February, April and May of this year by the magazine of links to an article it published in January 2015. Because violating a publication ban under Nova Scotia's Children and Family Services Act is a summary offence, and the six-month time limit has expired, the charge for publishing the January 2015 article should be dismissed, argues lawyer David Hutt of Burchells LLP, a Halifax-based law firm. Hutt represents Coltsfoot Publishing Ltd., the parent company of Frank Magazine, and Frank's managing editor Andrew Douglas. Hutt also argues that the hyperlinks to that article do not amount to publication and that the count relating to the publication of tweets with hyperlinks to the January 2015 article on Frank's website should also be dismissed.

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