Fight for Internet speech ratchets up
The popularity of new homes of only 500 square feet, 500-million-year-old bacteria and Barack Obama telling those with successful businesses, “You didn’t build that.”
Now website organizers are trying to raise a few thousand dollars to pursue arguments in a court case that would solidify the foundation for Internet free speech in Canada, a case they won at the trial court level but saw reversed on appeal because the judges wanted to address “a number of public interest and legal issues.”
The operators of the Free Dominion website are asking supporters for help in raising an estimated $14,000 they need right away for the fight.
“We need the support of the wider Internet community to continue our journey toward justice in order to maintain the principles of freedom of speech, thought and association for us all on the Internet,” site operators Mark and Connie Fournier have written in their appeal.
“The Ontario Court of Appeals asked us to bring expert witnesses to help them understand how defamation law should be applied to our Internet. This is an incredible opportunity for us to help shape the law. We have to ensure that our freedoms of association, thought, belief, opinion and free speech are properly protected,” they wrote.
“We need to raise $14,000 immediately to pay court costs and we will need to raise more funds for experts and for legal expenses for the trial. … Our track record shows that we will stand up for our Internet, we will not quit, and we can win! Through no choice of our own, we have been thrust into the front lines of this battle. We hope you will stand with us.”
The track record is important to understand, Connie Fournier told WND. The site has been around for more than a decade, but in the last few years has been targeted under Canada’s various laws that forbid expressing opinions about another individual or group.
Think of the U.S. “hate crimes” law, which enhances criminal penalties based on the thoughts of a perpetrator, on steroids.
But the site already has had success.
“Our legal cases have, so far, resulted in some excellent case law that protects Internet users,” the Fourniers reported.
Among the precedents that have been set are that plaintiffs “must now show that they have a real case of defamation, and a judge must consider free speech factors before the private information of anonymous posters can be demanded from website operators.”
Also, the fights have resulted in a determination that “excerpts from a copyrighted article are not considered a copyright violation.”
Thirdly, “forums” now can take advantage of a “news reporting” exemption for quoting from copyright works, and links to copyrighted material are not considered to be violations.
Lastly, and of concern in the case at hand, is that “Internet flame wars should not result in a successful defamation complaint when one flamer chooses to leave the online debate and file a lawsuit. This is vitally important to website operators who allow comments because, in Canada, they are liable for what others post on their sites.”
In the controversy, the couple was accused of defamation because of what a forum participant posted on their website, which some time ago was moved from Canada to a foreign ownership.
The district court judge ruled in a case brought by blogger John Baglow over comments by Roger Smith in a debate between the two that the case be dismissed.
Then the Ontario Court of Appeals got involved, deciding to hear the case.
“The appeals court did not overturn Justice Annis’ dismissal because he erred in finding that the comment was not defamatory, but because the case raised a number of political interest and legal issues that the higher court felt should be dealt with,” the Fourniers reported.
The site operators said it’s a good opportunity to establish ground rules for the ideas of free speech and freedom to comment.
“Oddly, although going through a full trial will be an………………………..
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