“Just A Link In Your Chain”

The title of this post is, of course, taken from the classic Aretha Franklin song.

But if you’re a blogger, it is not foolish to include links to back up your opinions. A recent New York case explains why.

Philip Seldon sued Compass Restaurant for defamation over an email calling him a “serial suer, scammer, spammer, embezzler, and revenge artist.” But, rather than send these claims into the world alone, the clever emailer added links to Web sites and news articles that supported her name calling.

In determining whether a statement is actionable libel or just opinion, courts look at the statement in context. An opinion can still be actionable if it implies the author knows of facts withheld or undisclosed to the reader that would lead to the author’s inference. But, once the speaker provides the facts behind the opinion, the statement is no longer actionable.

In this case, the New York court held that because the hyperlinks pointed to the basis of the information, the author supplied the reader with the sufficient facts to draw her own conclusions. In this context, the author’s comments qualify as pure opinions and, thus, are not actionable.

This case is yet another in a line of decisions providing some protection to bloggers, like yours truly, and others who provide links to source information. In addition to this case, check out Sandals Resorts v. Google and Redmond v. Gawker Media.