OpenStreetMap, a global "wikipedia of maps", demonstrates that volunteer collaborations are a force to be reckoned with in the geography world. Increasingly, crowd-sourced Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) projects are addressing mapping needs in crisis situations. The 2010 Haitian earthquakes provoked a blossoming of such initiatives, with a mileau of volunteer mapping efforts put forth to assist with relief efforts. Similar mapping efforts are now cropping up to assist in the context of forest fires, floods, hurricanes and other disasters.
Whether you contribute to VGI projects or rely upon the information, there are some key legal issues and potential legal risks that arise in this exciting new mapping environment. CIPPIC has put together a toolkit to help keep you informed. With the assistance of Professor Chandler, CIPPIC interns Laura Crestohl and Robert Vitulano, and generous funding from the GEOIDE Network, CIPPIC presents:
If you visited our website yesterday, you most likely noticed the following black-out page covering the entire cippic.ca site:
CIPPIC.ca joined countless other websites
in going entirely dark, or at least notionally censoring, our web pages for the day. This action was part of a worldwide protest against the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). The black-outs aimed to give web users a feel for what the internet could become under the purview of the proposed U.S. legislation -- that is, an internet where you might attempt to visit your favourite website, only to find that it was censored and blocked on the basis of aggressive U.S. content policies.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled this morning that the online posting of a hyperlink does not constitute a publication of a defamatory statement. This unanimous decision in Crookes v. Newton upholds online free speech rights, maintaining that an online link will only be defamatory if it actually repeats defamatory material.
In its decision, the Court largely concurred with CIPPIC's arguments at the hearing that a hyperlink merely identifies the location of an article, but does not incorporate the text or in any way adopt it. Links among websites create the fabric of the web and play a pivotal role in social media as users rapidly share links amongst each other. The threat of liability for the mere posting of a link would unnecessarily chill the further development of online media and social spaces. The S.C.C.'s ruling importantly permits internet users to continue sharing links without looking over their shoulders.
Electronic Freedom Frontiers (EFF) has issued a challenge aimed at spreading and strengthening the Tor Project -- a network of servers and routing points that aims to allow anonymous and encrypted online communications and expression. EFF is calling on individuals and organizations to operate relay points that will strengthen the Tor network and help make anonymous and private online browsing a reality.
EFF provides a great video detailing how to set up your Tor relay as well as some helpful legal advice for the operation of such a relay.
CIPPIC filed its factum in Crookes v. Newton, which will decide the fate of the hyperlink in defamation law. The case, on appeal from the B.C. Court of Appeal, has raised the issue of whether and under what circumstances posting a hyperlink to online content that contains defamatory statements can amount to publication of that content. The plaintiff, Crookes, argues that posting a hyperlink draws the reader's attention to any defamatory statements contained in the linked article and this is sufficient to impose liability on the poster of the link. He argues further that, by nature and convention, by posting a hyperlink the author of an article intends to incorporate the linked content into the original article.
Today, the Supreme Court of Canada granted CIPPIC leave to intervene in Crookes v. Newton. The case, on appeal from the B.C. Court of Appeal, has raised the issue of whether and under what circumstances posting a hyperlink to online content that contains defamatory statements can amount to publication of that content. The plaintiff, Crookes, argues that posting a hyperlink draws the reader's attention to any defamatory statements contained in the linked article and this is sufficient to impose liability on the poster of the link. He argues further that, by nature and convention, by posting a hyperlink the author of an article intends to incorporate the linked content into the original article.
In the summer of 2005, CIPPIC assisted an individual with a series of hate speech complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Crookes v. Newton, 2011 SCC 47, S.C.C. File No. 33412 (Liability for hyperlinking to defamatory content)
FAQ: Volunteered Geographic Information
The Internet has provided the public with an unprecedented ability to communicate and share ideas while keeping their identities private. Anonymity, or the ability to conceal one's identity, has opened the door to much freer communication than would otherwise be the case. Those who fear persecution, ostracism or embarrassment are able to communicate about topics and in ways they would not risk otherwise.
Filtering has been a hot topic in the public library community since web access first became a service provided to patrons. Those in favour of filters claim that they are an effective security measure that keeps out unwanted content and does not impact on users in any detrimental way. Those opposed to filters cite instances when legitimate research material has been blocked by filters and argue that it is an excessive measure that harms more than it helps.
As an inexpensive and accessible medium of worldwide communication, the Internet offers individuals unprecedented new opportunities to publish and share information and opinions. Messages posted on websites or in discussion forums have a potentially vast audience, and can be replicated almost endlessly. This means that defamatory statements published on the Internet can have wide repercussions for affected individuals or corporations.