The recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Crookes v Newton is of interest to the BU family as it provides clear guidance on certain areas of internet defamation.
Largely, the case devolves around the use of hyperlinks, such as this one that will link readers to the CBC report and a full copy of the judgement – http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/10/19/pol-scoc-hyperlink.html .
In essence, the court held that libel did not occur simply by a website producing a hyperlink to a site that might in itself be defamatory. However, if the website posting the hyperlink commented in a defamatory manner, then that is a different ballgame.
A very straightforward and common sense approach. But, as the BU family well knows, it is not as simple as that.
It is settled that if X (a USA citizen and resident) publishes a libellous comment about Y (a Bajan citizen and resident) in X’s USA website, then Y can bring an action for defamation in Barbados before the Barbados courts where the damage to Y’s reputation has been done.
The problem with that, of course, is that if X does not have assets in Barbados that can be charged to satisfy judgement and costs, then Y will have a hell of a time enforcing his judgement against X in the United States. So, while reputation may be restored, at least in Barbados, the enormous cost of restoring the reputation may well never be recouped. So the question remains: what is the value of the reputation?
There is also a problem in that the defamation laws vary from country to country.
So the law of internet defamation still remains doubtful and largely unenforceable, unless you have limitless financial resources.
However, it seems entirely reasonable and likely that most common law countries will accept this latest from the Supreme Court of Canada as being a worthy precedent. BU recommends that the family and readers follow the hyperlink to remain abreast of what can only be described as a fluid situation.