John is a #$%!

Ah, libel. Publishing defamatory or damaging text. There’s various interpretations, and generally calling John a complete moron on a web forum or in a blog post might be libelous (which John? I dunno .. you decide). This has been troublesome regarding publications which are also available (like on the Internet) in Britain, because British libel law treats publication, certainly online, a little differently from how one might expect. It’s not the date of production that counts, but the day of reading. This has led to a notion of “libel tourism” in the UK.

In any case, that’s my background for being interested in the topic, so a Canadian result on the topic caught my eye. It has no impact on the UK, of course, but it shows how the interpretation of libel is changing elsewhere. The CBC reports and Michael Geist comments on the introduction of a new defense “responsible communication” against libel suits. Interestingly, the CBC claims that the Canadian Supreme Court looked (among others) at the UK and found the available defenses in Canada “too strict.”

In any case, it means that in Canada, as long as (1) I did some research (2) the communication is in the public interest (3) the judge in the case confirms that it is in the public interest, then I can publish “John is a moron”.

And on a totally unrelated note, does it not strike you as odd that John Turner (17th prime minister of Canada) is not listed on the category page for Johns? Neither is John (Maddog) Hall. Nor John Oates. It’s a travesty.

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5 Responses to John is a #$%!

  1. Matthew says:

    This is annoyingly too common. Simon Singh is getting sued over libel by the ‘British Chiropractic Association’ for the following:

    “You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”

  2. Roger Pixley says:

    Dear John
    Patches are welcome :-)

  3. iain says:

    The notion of libel tourism has come about not due to how the UK courts treat the date of publication weird, but due to how the UK courts[*] treat whether or not something is published in the UK, which leads to the most famous libel tourism case, which The Times article did not appear to mention: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libel_tourism#The_Ehrenfeld_Case

    However, in the situation in Canada, you can still be sued for libel and you need to go to court to get the 3rd part of the equation “the judge in the case confirms that is related to the public interest” and this will cost money. Money that most people do not have, and therefore will be scared off from publishing controversial opinions on whether or not John is a moron by the threat of being sued. so really nothing has changed.

    [*] Or rather Mr Justice Eady, who, it is the general belief of those in the legal profession in the UK, is about to get a major slapping from the Law Lords to sort the libel tourism nonsense out.

  4. nixternal says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darryl

    Either is Darryl Hall, a real travesty!

    • adridg says:

      Clearly, she’s a man-eater. Um, no. It’s a global anti Hall and Oates conspiracy in wikipedia! Aieee!