libel chill

Last night I watched news story on CBC‘s The National that talked about various lawsuits against a handful of bloggers, Google, Wikipedia and a number of other sites. Since then all I can think of is that not only the freedom of speech but the core values of sharing and linking are too now under attack in blogiverse.

Montreal art-gallery owner Chris (Zeke) Hand is being sued by a competing gallery for posting about its owner selling fake paintings, which was written about on several other sites, but apparently Zeke is the only one being sued.

Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa, is being sued for “an allegedly defamatory third party comment on my site that I took down and for writing about, and linking to, P2PNet.net, which in turn linked to another site that allegedly contained a defamatory posting”.

The person who sued Geist is Wayne Crookes – a Vancouver businessman, former Green Party campaign manager. He is also suing Mark Francis for “a wiki I helped run during the Green Party of Canada internal elections last summer had a link which linked to a website which had on it one link among many which linked to a site that has content he objects to”.

So looks like all bloggers should be extremely cautious when linking to other blogs, because you never know who that blog is linking to, you too might get a court notice.

“I resent very much irresponsible statements made very recklessly. I’m determined that the people who have acted so irresponsibly will find that there are consequences,” says Mr. Crookes.

And on he goes suing Google for “libellous comments on Blogspot’s The Green Compost Heap”, Wikipedia for failing to “monitor its website to ensure that the libels of [Crookes] did not reappear on its website”.

Of course, I don’t want to be included in the “black list” of Mr. Crookes, that’s why you don’t see me linking to my quote sources in this post. But all you have to do to find out more details about what you can and cannot write on your blogs is search Google for “Wayne Crookes”, visit Libel Chill website and watch this CBC report on “Threat to the ‘Net and Political Free Speech”:

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7 Insightful Bits in response to “Be Careful Who You Link To And What You Write About”

  1. This is shocking and ridiculous. Is that a publicity grab? Let’s stop talking about him like we should stop talking about that self-proclaimed dot-com mogul.

  2. It sucks that one guy can be responsible for censorship through lawsuits. The blog posts could be 100% correct, but since this guy doesn’t like the comments made against him, he is using is legal bullying to apply censorship to those who’s only defense is their blogs.

  3. I think society has gone lawyer happy. It drives me absolutely nuts. Open the phone book and you will see more listings for attorneys than anything else.

    Maybe I should have said ‘seems like’ or actually counted them in my phonebook just in case somebody wants to sue me for this comment.

  4. Vivien

    Peter, if it is a publicity grab it is a very scary one. I could never understand people who crave negative publicity to get some fame.

    Ronald, isn’t it how things usually start – there’s always someone who initializes the change.

    Joey, if you get sued for your comment, I’ll too be liable for approving your comment on my blog. I sure hope Canadian legislature adjusts and improves its libel laws.

  5. It seems to me it’s just the sue-happy nature of our society today. A while back there were lawyers who were suing small businesses for not having disabled parking close to the front of the parking lot, which, true, this didn’t conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act. These lawyers did not have clients (no one came to them and said, “I’m having problems with this business because I have to walk too far”) and that’s how laws were passed to deal with this unscrupulous behavior. It seems Mr. Crookes (how appropriate) is just seeing how far he can get and how much money he can make before people pay him no mind.

  6. Vivien

    Lauren: I haven’t heard about that case with small businesses and parking for disabled. But recently there are so many lawsuits going on in both States and Canada that Europeans think that we are all suing each other here for every little thing.

  7. Well it seems to me that way too! There are so many frivolous lawsuits. Fortunately our legislation in the US seems to be aware of this and attempting to combat it. It’s just people thinking they can get rich quick by suing the pants off someone else. Lame.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on