Full case report

Grant v Google UK Ltd

Reference [2005] EWHC 3444 (Ch)
Court Chancery Division

Judge Rimer J

Date of Judgment 17 May 2006


Summary

Copyright – Infringement – Identity of infringer unknown to claimant – Identity known to third party – Order to disclose identity – Norwich Pharmacal Co and others v Customs & Excise Commissioners [1974] AC 133


Facts

Ms Grant sued as trustee of the Individuals Self-Discovery Trust. The Trust owned the copyright of an unpublished work entitled Unlock Reality. Without the Trust’s consent, an early draft of the work had been made available on the internet through an advertisement generated by the Google search engine which lead to a website at Realityunlocked.com. The website had been registered through a company called Domains By Proxy, which is said to specialise in the cloaking of the identity of domain owners. Requests by the Trust failed to reveal the identity of the owners of the website. The Trust sought Google’s aid in the identification of the advertiser but it declined to comply, saying it could not do so, perhaps because of a perceived duty of confidentiality to its customers. Google did, however, suggest that the Trust should apply for an Order requiring Google to make the requested disclosure, which it would not oppose.


Issue

Whether, following Norwich Pharmacal Co and others v Customs & Excise Commissioners [1974] AC 133, the relief sought should be granted.


Held

Granting the relief sought, this was a case in which Google had become mixed up in the apparent wrongdoing of others and it was in a position to disclose the identity of those others to the Trust.


Comment

Another application of long-standing legal principles to the internet. Domain name owners who have engaged in wrongdoing but who advertise on other sites will not be able to rely on any client confidentiality to keep their identities concealed.

As is usual in applications of this type, the Claimant was required to undertake to pay the Defendant’s proper costs of providing the requested information. Presumably both those costs and the legal costs here were very low: following Google’s indication that it would not oppose the application, the Claimant was not legally represented and Google did not appear and were not represented.


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Judgment