The York University Foundation is arguing that a press release posted on the Internet should fall under broadcast libel law.
The foundation makes the argument in a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by York professor David Noble.
Under Ontario’s Libel and Slander Act, the statute of limitations is only six weeks for cases involving broadcasting, but Noble says the Internet is not considered a broadcast medium and his defamation
action is not subject to the specified period.
Noble’s $25 million suit against the foundation, outgoing York president Lorna Marsden, Hillel of Greater Toronto, the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto and the Canadian Jewish Congress’ Ontario region, alleges press releases issued by these organizations denounced him as anti-Semitic.
The releases were simultaneously issued days after Noble distributed flyers on campus in late 2004 suggesting the significant number of Israel lobbyists and fundraisers signed on to raise money for the foundation might explain the university’s repression of pro-Palestinian activists.
Vincent Mosco, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Communication and Society at Queen’s University, said late last month in an interview with York’s student newspaper that he agrees with Noble’s assertion that broadcast law should not apply to on-line documents, noting the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has ruled it will not license nor regulate the Internet as it does with broadcasting.
Mosco said a decision in favour of the York foundation motion could have a major impact on all electronic communication, including blogs and e-mail correspondence.
“If a court were to say that e-mail is broadcasting, that would then require the Canadian government to rethink its entire legal and regulatory treatment of the Internet,” he told the Excalibur. “I’m not sure how it would go about doing this because obviously it would be very difficult to license Internet users, or even the Internet service providers that we buy Internet use from.”