Google is not liable as a publisher even if ‘snippets’ (the summaries contained in its search results) contain libellous words, a high court ruled last week.
The search engine’s UK and US divisions were sued in England by a training business over comments about its distance learning courses made on a US web forum – an excerpt of which then appeared in search results for the firm.
“Google said that Google Inc. should be sued in California, not England. But even if England is the proper forum, it argued, Google has no responsibility for the words complained of, and therefore there is ‘no reasonable prospect of success’ which is a requirement of rules on serving lawsuits outside the court’s jurisdiction,” reports OUT-LAW.com.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Eady made some additional, significant comments (close to this writer’s heart):
“There appears to be no previous English authority dealing with this modern phenomenon (…) Indeed, it is surprising how little authority there is within this jurisdiction applying the common law of publication or its modern statutory refinements to Internet communications.”