Friday’s Ottawa Citizen carried a story on the rise of libel cases in Canada, due to the rising popularity of blogging. No doubt bloggers are increasingly being attacked for perceived defamation. So what is defamation? That’s a tricky question, made doubly difficult by the fact that it is treated differently in US courts than in Canada. I am not a lawyer, however, I found the following resources helpful:
The Wikipedia entry on Defamation is quite complete, defining what constitutes defamatory speech, and differentiating between libel and slander. It also includes a history of defamation law, and outlines the differences in practice between several nations, including the US, Canada, and the UK.
EFF.org’s online FAQ on defamation law is also a good resource. It’s completely US-centric, but does a good job of outlining current case law, and the boundaries that govern free speech.
Vancouver-based McConchie Law has an extensive website dealing with defamation, privacy and other topics, including case review, in a Canadian context.
If you post anything controversial, it’s likely you will, at some point, be harrassed. You can save yourself some headaches by knowing in advance where the boundaries of free speech exist.
The Citizen piece also includes this quote:
McConchie says most Internet libel cases in which damages are awarded are those in which the person responsible for the offensive material refuses to remove it once they are warned that it may be defamatory. Even if they get into legal trouble over a blog entry or discussion board posting, most amateur Internet authors can avoid a full-blown court case with some common sense and willingness to compromise, he says.
It would take an extreme threat for me to remove a posting, or for that matter, a comment to a posting. This soapbox of mine is intended to provoke discussion. If you don’t like what I’ve written, well, that’s what the comment boxes are for. That way, both viewpoints can be viewed and/or discussed by visitors.