Couple of things up front: I am not a lawyer. And I have not polled other DJ!ers on this. I'm speaking solely for myself.
I have no dog (so to speak) in this fight beyond my status as Internet user: blogger, Tweeter, and blog commenter.
So this happened.
Dr. Dawg will have his day in court, a panel of judges has ruled.Relevant sections of the ruling at Morton's Musings.
In a decision released Thursday, the Court of Appeal for Ontario reinstated the defamation suit of John Baglow, a.k.a. Dr. Dawg, an Ottawa blogger who said his reputation had been soiled in an online conservative chat room.
That allegation will now be the subject of a trial that could establish new rules for discourse in the Internet’s bruising marketplace of ideas.
“The issues raised in this action are all important because they arise in the relatively novel milieu of Internet defamation in the political blogosphere,” Justice Robert Blair said, writing for the three-member appeal panel.
Questions about what constitutes defamation in the caustic world of blogging have not been addressed by Canadian courts “in any significant way,” Blair noted. It means, he said, that a full-blown trial is needed to explore key questions, such as:
• Should the law accept that “anything goes” in the blogosphere?
• Are defamation standards on the Internet the same as those now applied to newspapers and TV?
• Should posts on a political blog be considered the same as ones on Facebook or Twitter?
A trial, Blair said, will allow the court — “whose members are perhaps not always the most up-to-date in matters involving the blogosphere” — to answer those questions with the benefit of cross-examination and expert evidence.
The appeal ruling overturns a lower court decision to throw out Baglow’s lawsuit before it could proceed to trial.
So. There's going to be a trial. With facts and arguments and expert testimony and cross-examination.
You know, the stuff that helps inform the law in a fast-changing world.
And, presumably, at the end of the day, interested parties will have a better idea of what can and can't be said on the Innertoobz. And who is and is not responsible for content on a blog or discussion board.
How is this a bad thing?
Well, the bad part is that the individuals involved have to pay for it. And the costs could be substantial.
I'm no organizer but if someone would like to set up a way to fund BOTH sides of this case, I'd chip in.
Failing that, if/when Free Dominion and Dr Dawg get their own funding mechanisms in place, I'd chip in to BOTH of those.
It is not a matter of taking sides. It is a matter of setting some guidelines for current users of the Net and for future cases of outrage and umbrage.
Somebody's gotta pay for it. Why not the greater Canadian Internet community?
MORE: With comments from a defamation lawyer.
UPDATE on Saturday, June 16/12: My response to Namó Mandos's post.
ADDED by fh on June 19/12: Isn't this an interesting development? I wonder who will debate.