The Litigator

THE LITIGATOR

Commentary on Law Affecting Business

The Litigator
AGM :: Affleck Greene McMurtry LLP

THE LITIGATOR

Affleck Greene McMurtry LLP
365 Bay Street, Suite 200  ·  Toronto, Canada
416 360 2800  ·  info@agmlawyers.com  ·  www.thelitigator.ca

Unclear whether Internet information is considered “broadcast” under the Libel and Slander Act

In Bahlieda v. Santa[1], the question of whether information placed on a website and made available through the Internet is “broadcast” within the meaning of the Ontario Act remains unanswered. The recently overturned a motions judge’s finding that placing material on the Internet via a website, constitutes a broadcast within the meaning of the Libel and Slander Act. In the Act, "broadcasting" is defined as the dissemination of writing, signs, signals, pictures and sounds of all kinds, intended to be received by the public. Unlike cases where are not broadcast, the Act requires a plaintiff to notify a of the intention to sue them for defamation within six weeks of discovering the and to sue the within three months – or their action will be barred.

The motions judge, Pierce J. of the Superior Court, granted partial dismissing a defamation action relating to allegedly defamatory information posted on the Internet – finding that information placed on a website and made available through the Internet constituted a “broadcast” and was thus subject to the same requirements as any other broadcast. The motions judge found that the plaintiff had neither notified the ‘broadcaster’ of the intention to sue within six weeks nor commenced the action within three months. Accordingly, the action was dismissed as statute-barred.

A unanimous Court of Appeal overturned the decision – finding that conflicting expert evidence on the issue made it unclear whether Internet information can be properly considered a ‘broadcast’ and thus subject to the strict limitations under the Act. The Court of Appeal found that judgment should not be granted and that a trial was necessary “for in expert testimony, particularly those involving difficult, complex policy issues with broad social ramifications.”

The Court of Appeal also stated that it remains to be decided whether subsequent viewing of Internet material by third parties amounts to a republication of the material thereby triggering copyright protection laws.

Published July 29, 2004

 

 

[1] (2003), 68 O.R. (3d) 115 (C.A.).

 

Sonny Ingram
Affleck Greene McMurtry LLP

Sonny Ingram

Sonny Ingram is a former associate of Affleck Greene McMurtry LLP

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