First thing, the entire decision is here. It isn't too long nor hard to follow.
Second thing, its pretty clear that Crookes v. Newton deserved to fail.
Third thing, this bit of reasoning for the majority position strikes me as rather badly done, and extremely ominous:
A hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as “publication” of the content to which it refers. When a person follows a hyperlink to a secondary source that contains defamatory words, the actual creator or poster of the defamatory words in the secondary material is the person who is publishing the libel. Only when a hyperlinker presents content from the hyperlinked material in a way that actually repeats the defamatory content, should that content be considered to be “published” by the hyperlinker.
I'm afraid this sounds like a blanket exemption for linking to defamatory material. So, imagine the following.
I publish a post which says:
John Doe is a murderer.
I am soon approached by Mr. Doe's lawyers. But then Bob writes a post which says
BCL finally tells the truth about John Doe.
Not having repeated any of the defamatory content, the SCC ruling lets Bob off Scot free. Now, you might argue that's fine. Bob doesn't control what's at the other end of the link. Maybe it's been changed in the meantime. Why should he be responsible? And etc.
Okay, but lets assume that Bob knows exactly at the other end of the link and is in clearly endorsing the defamatory content. And lets assume that in context it is absolutely clear that Bob's intent is to ruin the reputation of John Doe, as much as mine was.
The defamatory content was not repeated in his post, so he suffers no consequence. Period. End of story. Several justices dissented on this point, suggesting that context should be taken into consideration, and endorsing defamation should be considered defamation. The majority seems to have said NO.
The downside to this ought to be obvious. As Dan Grice notes in the comments over at Geist's place:
This ruling opens the door for abuse by publishers, and those with popular sites to readily direct readers to defamation and ruin reputations with no recourse to the person whose reputation is ruined. The person writing to exact words could be judgement proof, out of jurisdiction or sufficiently hidden. (I could write a defamatory article using a proxy site to ensure I would never be found, link to it myself, and be practically untouchable).
Exactly right. To give another example, a well known journalist links to a nobody blogger who is literally not worth suing. A reputation gets damaged, and the perps get away clear.
So what should have been a slam dunk for the SCC--just follow the reasoning of the B.C. judge--appears to have gone a bit sideways.
PS. The decision might also allow you to link to sites hosting copyright infringing music and movies. Hmm. Glass half-full?