In a recent case filed by Milorad Trkulja against search engine Google, the Australian court has held Google liable for defamatory images that were reflected in its search results.
The jury in this case concluded that the search engine was the publisher of images of Trkjulja and related information which suggested he was involved in crime. Google naturally took the defence of being an online service provider (OSP) not liable for defamatory images.
However, Google failed to realise that the safe harbour protection available to it ceases to exist the moment it is put to notice of the defamatory or any copyright infringing material and it fails to take any action upon the same.
If even after being aware of such offending material a search engine like Google does not take action, it is certainly liable for the consequences as the safe harbour protection is not available to it.
Of late Google has also been defying both Indian and US laws that pertains to copyright protection, trademarks protection and offensive contents removal laws. In fact, Google has been deleting the original and copyright protected articles and is supporting copyright infringers by not removing the copyright violating results from the search results.
A dedicated website titled websites, blogs and news censorship by Google and India and a corresponding discussion group has also been started by Perry4Law’s Techno Legal Base (PTLB) to demarcate the legal liabilities of Google for engaging in many forms of search results censorships and not taking appropriate legal action after receiving a valid content removal request.
We must ascertain is Google playing stupid or is it actually stupid? Google has been ignoring in many cases the applicable laws for removal of copyright violating material and offending contents. And merely because it is an intermediary or OSP does not protect it from civil and criminal liabilities especially when it is aware of the offending contents.