What Is The Difference Between A “Naked Link” and a “Footnote”?

Naked Link Internet Libel
Online Defamation Law and Links

Casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson has been embroiled in a defamation lawsuit for a long, long time. From court to court, the Adelson libel claim hops — motion by motion. And now, in the eleventh hour, it looks like the case depends on the definition of “naked link” and whether or not it’s a footnote or more than a footnote.

The “Naked Link” Ruling

If you’re interested in the finer points of online defamation law, things are getting interesting in the Adelson case. Why? Because the whole thing may turn on whether or not a “naked link” is the equivalent to a traditional footnote.

Why Adelson Sued The NJDC For Defamation

Two years ago, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) – hoping to make its mark on the presidential election – published an online petition urging Mitt Romney not to take campaign contributions from Adelson. The appeal painted Adelson as a morally corrupt shyster who allowed prostitution in his overseas resorts and funneled foreign money into campaign coffers.

Got Information From Another Lawsuit

Where did the NJDC get their info? From a lawsuit, filed by a former Sands executive, which the NJDC linked to at the bottom of its online petition. Adelson insists the case, on which the claims were culled, is merit-less — rendering the accusations defamatory.

District Judge: Naked Link Is A Footnote And Not Defamatory

Judge Paul Oetken heard the case and ruled in favor of the defense. Oetken reasoned that online source links are the “twenty-first-century equivalent of a footnote” and therefore not defamatory.

Adelson had to pay attorneys’ fees for violating the state’s Anti-SLAPP law.

Appeals Court: We’ve Got Some Thinking To Do About “Naked Links” & Online Defamation

Then came the appeal.

Admittance of Antediluvian Internet Understanding

At the appeal’s hearing, octogenarian Judge Guido Calabresi copped to his “’antediluvian’ understanding on the Internet.” Another panelist, Judge Denny Chin, also voiced confusion as to why the hyperlink is not considered “better” than a footnote.

Lawyers for Adelson asked the court to certify a pair of questions, one being: Does a “naked hyperlink” qualify as a “footnote” for the purposes of an online defamation lawsuit, or is it more?

In an effort to convince the courts that hyperlink citations are a good thing, a lawyer from the defense urged,   “In the 21st century, we want to encourage people to do what we did in this petition, which is including the hyperlink [naked link] as a valuable tool for expanding human knowledge.”