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Press Releases

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OpenPolitics.ca, p2pnet.net

Free Speech sites link up

 

TORONTO, ONTARIO and LAKE COWICHAN, BRITISH COLUMBIA (July 26, 2006) - In May, one of the Internet's most notorious companies, and one of its most controversial personalities, sued a blogger from this tiny community on Vancouver Island. Sharman Networks, the Australia-based owner of the KaZaA file-sharing application, and Sharman CEO Nikki Hemming, launched a suit against Canadian Jon Newton, alleging that an article he posted to his Web site p2pnet.net, and readers' comments in response to it, were libelous. The plaintiffs also demanded the identity of the anonymous posters.

 

"Canadian libel law in effect says 'Guilty until proven innocent' and if the plaintiff wins, in my view, Canadian bloggers might as well pack up and close their Net accounts," says Newton.

 

Canadian defamation law doesn't require a plaintiff to show that she has suffered damages to sue. It also presumes that if speech appears libelous, it is until proven otherwise. The onus is on the defendant to prove that the speech is either not defamatory or that it should be allowed in the public interest.

 

Newton is not alone in his feeling that Canadian defamation law is antiquated and in need of an Internet-age refit.

 

Michael Pilling, the Toronto-based founder of the political discussion site OpenPolitics.ca, also found himself on the receiving end of a libel suit after a contributor posted an article on his site about Green Party financier, Wayne Crookes. When Crookes claimed parts of the posting disparaged him and were untrue, Pilling edited it, only to have the reader repost the content shortly afterwards.

 

When Crookes objected again, Pilling explained how Crookes could use the site to contribute his own point of view.

 

"Democracy requires open debate. The purpose of my site is to give everyone an opportunity to express their position, and hope people start listening to each other," explained Pilling. "Instead, I was served with a lawsuit."

 

Newton and Pilling have decided to defend their respective actions because they feel that the rights of Canadian bloggers to freedom of expression are in serious danger. They have agreed to work together to raise awareness of the issue.

 

"Of course freedom of expression has to be balanced against other rights, but the law is pernicious. Anyone who runs a blog, a wiki site or an online discussion forum in Canada is in jeopardy of what someone else might say," says Pilling. "A mere allegation of unproved libel will cost thousands to defend against, regardless of whether the speech is true, you wrote it or were even necessarily aware of it."

 

"The Internet enables expression as never before, and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is supposed to guarantee freedom of expression," adds Newton. "Defamation laws should not be available as weapons. Our laws need to reflect that."

 

To raise awareness, Pilling and Newton will be participating in a public roundtable on freedom of expression in Toronto on August 5 at the Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 120, from 3-5PM.

 

A benefit concert will be held at Toronto landmark, The Rivoli, at 334 Queen Street West. Doors open at 9PM. Cover is $10.

 

Press contacts:

Jon Newton, jon@p2pnet.net

Michael Pilling, mlpilling@gmail.com

 

Round table, concert:

Neil Leyton, nleyton@gmail.com

Tina Siegel, tina.siegel@gmail.com


 

Online Freedom of Speech Fundraiser (July 24, 2006)

Saturday August 5th, the Rivoli Restaurant & Club (332 Queen St. West, Toronto)

Artists: Aceface, Dennis O'Toole, Kobotown, Lindy, and Neil Leyton.

 

Background:

 

Jon Newton, from Vancouver Island, BC, the founder and editor of p2pnet.net , is being sued by Nikki Hemming, ceo of the infamous Australian Kazaa p2p application. p2pnet was initially also being sued by Kazaa owner Sharman Networks.

 

The precedent-setting case, the first of its kind, vividly illustrates the danger of applying ancient laws to Freedom of Expression in the digital age.

 

Sharman and Hemming claimed they'd been libelled in p2pnet posts. But Sharman recently abandoned its case, leaving Hemming to carry the allegation that Newton defamed her in an article outlining Australian court proceedings into her assets, by herself. She also continues to demand the identity of a p2pnet reader who'd posted an anonymous comment included in the same story.

 

"Our Canadian libel laws say 'Guilty until proven innocent' and if Hemming wins, Canadian bloggers might as well pack up and close their Net accounts because the right of online freedom of speech will be killed stone dead," says Newton.

 

"And there's something else: as far as I'm concerned, an anonymous post is the same as a confidential source. I don't have to like a post, or even agree with it. But I believe that as an honest and responsible human being, I do have to safeguard the poster, if indeed I know who he or she is which in this case, I didn't."

 

To help Newton with his legal fees, Toronto based singer/songwriter Neil Leyton has written a song about the situation, and has organized a fundraiser for August 5th at the Rivoli, with fellow Fading Ways Music label-mates Aceface, as well as friends Lindy, Kobotown and Dennis O'Toole.

 

The Rivoli doors open at 9 PM, and the cover is $10.

 

Leyton's song, as well as other music donated by the participating artists, will also be on sale at the concert.

 

By way of a pre-concert information session / press conference, a special Online Freedom of Expression round table is also taking place at Toronto's Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 120, Toronto, from 3 - 5PM. The round table will feature the following panelists:

 

Moderator: Rob Hyndman - http://www.robhyndman.com/

 

Jon Newton - http://p2pnet.net/story/9333

 

Jon will have statements from:

  • Phillipa Lawson of CIPPIC
  • BC media lawyer Dan Burnett who's representing Jon in his upcoming libel case with Kazaa boss Nikki Hemming
  • Jason Munning of Ten Mile Tide, the former Kazaa poster band which dropped its association with Sharman Networks and put its albums online for free to protest the libel action. http://www.p2pnet.net/story/9023

 

Jason Young of Deeth Williams Wall - http://www.dww.com/bios/jmy.htm

 

Michael Pilling of OpenPolitics.ca: http://www.openpolitics.ca/tiki-index.php

 

Russell McOrmond of Digital Copyright Canada: http://www.digital-copyright.ca/

 

For additional information contact Neil Leyton at nleyton@gmail.com, or Tina Siegel at tina.siegel@gmail.com.

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