Liability for libel
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Thread: Liability for libel

  1. #1
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    Liability for libel

    The possibility for being sued for defamation or libel for posts in this forum exists. I am concerned about two separate classes of problems.

    a) Suppose someone somehow, without my knowledge makes a forged post with my pseudonym, and that post is libelous. How is the liability split between CMF and myself even if I remove it as soon as I become aware of it?

    b) I would not knowingly make a libelous post but which nevertheless may contain inadvertent errors in fact. What is my liability in this case?

    Legal fees can be ruinous.

    Comments anyone?


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    Quote Originally Posted by stantistic View Post
    The possibility for being sued for defamation or libel for posts in this forum exists. I am concerned about two separate classes of problems.

    a) Suppose someone somehow, without my knowledge makes a forged post with my pseudonym, and that post is libelous. How is the liability split between CMF and myself even if I remove it as soon as I become aware of it?

    b) I would not knowingly make a libelous post but which nevertheless may contain inadvertent errors in fact. What is my liability in this case?
    The exposure to liability is small. A significant reason for that is that most posters here are anonymous. I do not think the law goes so far as to give recognition to some kind of alter ego being offended.

    Let's suppose I post here words such as: "Stantistic is a liar and a thief." If untrue, the words are defamatory. But who has been defamed? Does anyone know who is "stantistic"? Let's now suppose that in real life, stantistic, is John Doe, who lives on the Bridle Path in Toronto. John Doe can sue for damages only to the extent he can prove that it is open and notorious that "stantistic" and "John Doe" of the Bridle Path in Toronto are one and the same, so that everyone (or at least some) readers know darn well that the libel was aimed at the John Doe who lives on the Bridle Path in Toronto.

    I cannot for a moment see the court registry accepting for filing a Writ of Summons styled:

    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

    Between:

    STANTISTIC Plaintiff

    And:

    MUKHANG PERA Defendant


    Quote Originally Posted by stantistic View Post
    a) Suppose someone somehow, without my knowledge makes a forged post with my pseudonym, and that post is libelous. How is the liability split between CMF and myself even if I remove it as soon as I become aware of it.
    As for that scenario, if someone makes a "forged post", then how can you be held liable? You have done nothing wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by stantistic View Post
    b) I would not knowingly make a libelous post but which nevertheless may contain inadvertent errors in fact. What is my liability in this case?
    As for scenario (b), again, to the extent one anonymous poster slags another anonymous poster, I see no liability. But supposing everyone knows the true identities of the posters, you can be held liable for "inadvertent errors in fact" if those words are, in fact, defamatory. The law expects one to check one's facts before speaking words of another that would have the effect of lowering that person in the eyes of the community.

    My comments here are quite general and it should be recognized that not all defamatory publication attracts damages. The law of defamation recognizes a number of defences, including: justification, absolute privilege, qualified privilege, statutory privilege, parliamentary privilege, privilege attaching in judicial proceedings, responsible communication, etc.
    Last edited by Mukhang pera; 2017-05-16 at 03:50 PM.

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    Wow!

    I am astounded by the erudite and comprehensive reply. Not only will it serve me in this instance, but will serve other CMF'ers as a reference in the future. All that, pro-bono!

    What can i say other than thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stantistic View Post
    Wow!

    I am astounded by the erudite and comprehensive reply. Not only will it serve me in this instance, but will serve other CMF'ers as a reference in the future. All that, pro-bono!

    What can i say other than thanks.
    Just who, pray tell, said anything about pro bono? Check your pm inbox. My account awaits you there. How 'bout payment in bitcoin? Or maybe that CRA favourite, itunes cards!

    Anyway, I am happy to have helped out. I don't have the wide-ranging finance savvy of many here, but there are a few areas in which I can help out once in awhile.

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    Considering courts are backed up as it is, I can't see an anonymous, small time, backwater forum being a major concern to the courts, especially considering what high profile websites publish about real people yet never see action.

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    "anonymous" - libel is not possible. This thread is silly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by none View Post
    "anonymous" - libel is not possible. This thread is silly.
    Not as silly as you might think. Stantistic is quite correct in saying, as he did in his initial post: "The possibility for being sued for defamation or libel for posts in this forum exists".

    I have to admit that I did not fully address his concern in my reply. To be honest, much of my reply was framed against a backdrop of recent goings on here on cmf, with members saying less than complimentary things about other members. To the extent that the party allegedly defamed by one cmf member is another cmf member known only by an anonymous member name, they have little ability to seek damages for defamation. But, as I said, if their true identity is known or readily knowable, the situation is different.

    The situation is very different if a member here posts something defamatory about an identified person or entity. That can easily happen. For example, often we see here a member asking the forum is anyone can recommend a property manager, financial adviser, realtor, or whatever, usually in a certain locale. Let's suppose statistic posts a recommendation for John Doe, who lives on High Point Road in Toronto. Then I join in, saying I know that John Doe and no one should do business with him. He's a cheat. Unless he's not willing to admitting to being a cheat, John Doe has a cause of action against me. The same goes when we post about companies. Every day cmf members post about the merits, or lack thereof, of certain traded stocks as an investment. One can be sued for saying that members should not invest in that stock because, for example, the company is poorly run, the CEO is a jerk and a swindler, etc. Hiding behind an anonymous poster name will not avert potential liability.

    As for JAG's comment about the courts not being concerned with a backwater forum such as cmf, it's not what the court thinks, but what the defamed party thinks that will decide whether the matter gets to court. The fact that the defamation occurred in a "backwater forum" would only be relevant to the issue of quantum of damages. It is part of the law of defamation that awards are generally higher the more widespread the publication of the defamatory material. I suppose that is a statement of the obvious. If a poster to a website in China posts in Chinese on a Chinese-language website that mukhang pera is a disbarred lawyer who stole from his clients, my award of damages is likely to be less than if that same publication appeared in English on a site widely read by those who know me.

    Internet publication is an emerging and evolving area of defamation jurisprudence. For anyone interested, I have put together a sampling of recent B.C. cases. For each, there's a summary, followed by a link to the full judgment.

    DEFAMATION — Liability — Internet publication — • Remedies • PRIVACY — Breach — Damages — Defendant engaging in protracted dispute with plaintiff and other members of an internet user group — Plaintiff posting numerous comments about plaintiff over several years, right up to date of trial, stating plaintiff had committed numerous acts of immoral and criminal conduct, and was a person of the worst possible character and mentally unsound — Defendant also obtaining plaintiff’s true identity, address and photographs and posting those on internet — Court finding defendant’s postings defamatory, and defences of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege not established — Plaintiff entitled to general damages of $100,000, aggravated damages of $50,000, damages of $25,000 for breach of privacy, and a permanent injunction.

    http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/Jdb-txt/...08BCSC0827.htm

    DEFAMATION — Liability — Internet publication — • Remedies — Damages — Punitive damages • Injunctions • INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY — Trademark infringement • TORTS — Passing off — Defendant making malevolent attacks on his website against plaintiff association and its CEO, and also using its trade-mark on his website to create confusion — Court finding not a “skerrick of truth” in the postings, and finding defamation proven, in addition to trade-mark infringement, passing off, conspiracy to injure, and breach of Competition Act, s. 52 — Recognizing that the internet cannot be used to defame the persons in the manner the defendant had done, court awarding association damages totaling $106,000, and personal plaintiff awarded $115,000, including punitive damages of $10,000 and $15,000 respectively — Permanent injunctions granted.

    http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/...15BCSC1650.htm

    DEFAMATION — Remedies — Damages — Defendant making disparaging comments about plaintiff mining company on internet “bullboards” — Although plaintiff not showing economic loss, court finding circumstances warranting award of $40,000 in general damages, but not punitive damages.

    http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/...11BCSC1532.htm

    DEFAMATION — Remedies — Damages — Aggravated damages • Punitive damages • Injunctions — Defendant posting defamatory comments about plaintiff mining company, its management company and one of their senior officers, on a widely viewed internet website, alleging corrupt and criminal conduct — Defendant posting under variety of pseudonyms and not stopping or offering apology when challenged — Defendant failing to appear at trial — Court awarding each corporate plaintiff general damages of $75,000 and punitive damages of $25,000, and awarding personal plaintiff general damages of $125,000, punitive damages of $25,000 and aggravated damages of $75,000 — Court also granting injunction.

    http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/...10BCSC0939.htm

    DEFAMATION — Liability — Internet publication — • Defences — Fair comment • Justification — Defendants, U.S. residents operating website dedicated to exposing unsavoury individuals in financial markets, publishing several articles which included references to plaintiff, a long time sophisticated business man engaged in international finance — References implicating plaintiff as being a criminal, arms and drug dealer, terrorist, fraud artist, and mobster having connections with jihadist groups, including Al Quaeda — In action by plaintiff for defamation, court finding that defence of truth and fair comment were not made out, that defence tactics in defence of claim exacerbated defamatory effect of articles and were meant to intimidate plaintiff and to humiliate him into abandoning his lawsuit — Court awarding $400,00 general damages, $500,000 aggravated damages, $250,000 punitive damages and $55,000 special damages — Court also issuing permanent injunction enjoining defendants from making any statements regarding plaintiff in their website publications.

    http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/...SC0810cor1.htm

    Now I must go back and revise my bill to stantistic.
    Last edited by Mukhang pera; 2017-05-16 at 06:15 PM.

  9. #8
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    Here's a real life example: Otto Rock vs Olyeller
    Both names are anonymous user names, although in the case of O.R. enough people know who he really is, that it may have gone to court had Oly not backed off. Sure scared the pants off him anyway.

    http://incakolanews.blogspot.ca/2017...-part-for.html

    some snips:

    ”He can never set foot in the US again or he will be thrown in jail for being a huckster and bilking investors.”

    A special message for you, Olyeller:

    "I sincerely apologize to this board and to Otto as I was upset about a personal matter" ... etcetera

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mukhang pera
    Let's suppose statistic posts a recommendation for John Doe, who lives on High Point Road in Toronto. Then I join in, saying I know that John Doe and no one should do business with him. He's a cheat. Unless he's not willing to admitting to being a cheat, John Doe has a cause of action against me.
    That is not accurate. It is not just the insulting comments that constitute sander or libel. It is whether they are true or not that is determinative.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation


    Defamation—also calumny, vilification, and traducement—is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation.[1]
    Under common law, to constitute defamation, a claim must generally be false and must have been made to someone other than the person defamed.[2] Some common law jurisdictions also distinguish between spoken defamation, called slander, and defamation in other media such as printed words or images, called libel.[3]

    .............

    There are several ways a person must go about proving that libel has taken place. For example, in the United States, the person must prove that the statement was false, caused harm, and was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. These steps are for an ordinary citizen. For a celebrity or a public official, the person must prove the first three steps and that the statement was made with the intent to do harm or with reckless disregard for the truth,[12] which is usually specifically referred to as "proving malice".[13]

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by wraphter View Post
    That is not accurate. It is not just the insulting comments that constitute sander or libel. It is whether they are true or not that is determinative.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation
    I thought I made that point clear in my initial post to this thread, where I said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Mukhang pera View Post
    Let's suppose I post here words such as: "Stantistic is a liar and a thief." If untrue, the words are defamatory.
    I suppose, with folks like you watching, I should have been more pedestrian in my approach and explained, yet again, that the words would have to be untrue.

    And, of course, I feel constrained to add that no amount of years at the bar can hope to give one knowledge of the law that one may gain with a few clicks on wikipedia. There can be no higher authority, rendering lawyers and the courts obsolete.


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