July 20, 2009
Google held not to be a publisher
Search engine not liable for defamatory search results, rules Eady J
The High Court ruled last week that Google was not a publisher at common law in respect of defamatory statements appearing as part of the information snippets published in its search engine results.
In only the third case in a decade in which the liability of internet intermediaries has been considered, Mr Justice Eady determined that Google was a different type of internet intermediary from a webhost or website. As an automated process, Google should not be held responsible for publishing any defamatory statement as part of its search results and was not a publisher at common law. Nor was Google a publisher when it had been put on notice, the Judge ruled.
The claimant, Metropolitan International Schools Ltd, a company specialising in distance learning courses, brought proceedings against Google for ‘publishing’ within the information snippets in search results a defamatory statement labeling one of their products a ‘scam’. A claim was also brought against the originator of the statement and judgment entered.
The Claimant contended that Google was a commercial internet publisher liable for defamatory statements produced in search results from the point that it was properly notified of a complaint. In this case, Google had started to block some of the search results sued upon after proceedings had been issued.
For the 5RB.com case report and a pdf of the judgment, please click here.
- Google not liable for defamation in search results, rules high court – Guardian
- In Britain, Judge Finds for Google in Libel Case – New York Times
- Google cleared of responsibility for indexing defamatory comments – Telegraph
- British High Court Sides With Google in Libel Case – Wall Street Journal