Should Internet-specific Principles of Law Be Adopted?

AuthorDavid A. Potts
ProfessionBarrister, Bar of Ontario
 : Should Internet-specic
Principles of Law Be Adopted?
A. introduCtion
“Like Wyatt Earp arr iving in Dodge City, law and order has come to cyberspace.”
W. John Moore, “Taming Cyberspace” ()  Nat’l J.  at 
“Maybe libel law is obsolete. Maybe it always was. But i n the world of Net
communications, it is hard to see why anyone should weep if libel lawsuits
disappeared altogether.”
Mike Godwi n, “Libel Law: Let it Die,” Wired (March, ) at 
“To s ay that libel and slander are rampant on the Internet would be an
R. Timothy Muth, “Old Doct rines on a New Frontier: Defamation and Ju risdiction
in Cyberspace,” e [Wisconsi n] Courier (September, )
As the above quotations demonstrate, cyberlibel has generated contro-
versy for many years. Justice Kirby in Dow Jones and Company Inc. v. Gut-
nick, [] HCA  at para.  stated:
KIRBY J. : Lord Bing ham of Corn hill recently wrote that, i n its impact on
the law of defamation, the Internet wil l require “almost every concept a nd
rule in the eld . . . to be reconsidered in the light of this unique medium
of in stant worldwide communication.” is appeal en livens such a recon-
sideration. [Footnote omitted.]
Courts a round the world have recogni zed the distinct ive features of the
Internet and the necessity of trying to apply the rules of defamation law to
the Internet.
56 Cyberlibel: Information Warfare in the st Century?
A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc.,•  NSSC , discussing Facebook
and privacy issues.
Black v. Breeden• ,  ONCA , on jurisdictional questions involving
Le Roux and Others v. Dey• (/ ), [] ZASCA ,  () SA 
(SCA), on defamatory meaning arising out of the multimedia nature
of the Internet.
Crookes v. Newton• ,  BCCA , discussing publication and hyper-
Metropolitan Intern ational Schools Ltd. (t/a Skillstrain and/or Train-•
game) v. Designtechnica Corp (t/a Digital Trends) & Ors, [] EWHC
 (QB), on search engine liability.
Applause Store Productions Ltd. & Anor v. Raphael• , [] EWHC 
(QB), discussing Facebook.
Grant v. Torstar Corporation,•  ONCA , discussing the applica-
tion of a new defence of possible communication in matters of the public
interes t.
Bunt v. Tilley & Ors• , [] EWHC  (QB), discussing the liability of
passive intermediaries.
Bangoura v. Washington Post,•  CanLII  (ON C.A.), Bar rick
Gold Corp. v. Lopehandia,  Ca nLII   (ON C.A .), on questions of
damages and impact and ext ra-territorial application of injunctions.
Dow• Jones & Co. Inc. v. Gutnick, [] HCA , discussing the si ngle
publication rule.
Frequently par ties raise arguments that Internet-specic rules or prin-
ciples should be adopted in their particu lar case. e courts have thoroughly
considered and discu ssed the competing arg uments about t he development
and applications of Internet-specic rules.
See, for example: Blac k v. Breeden,  ONCA 
Metropolitan Internati onal Schools Ltd. (t/a Skillstrain and/or Traingame) v.
Designtechnica C orp (t/a Digital Trends) & Ors, [] EWHC  (QB)
Bangoura v. Washington Post,  Can LII  (ON C.A.)
Carter v. B.C. Federation of Foste r Parents Assn.,  BCCA 
Lewis & Ors v. King, [] EWCA Civ 
Dow Jones & Co. Inc. v. Gutnick, [] HCA 
Loutchansky v. Times Newspa pers Ltd [] EWCA Civ 
e High Court of Aust ralia rejected an argument by Dow Jones in Dow
Jones & Co. Inc. v. Gutnick, [] HCA . e Court determined that, be-
cause of the characterist ics of the Internet, t he Court should not apply the

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