Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Google Australia Privacy The Courts The Internet Your Rights Online

Google Found Guilty of Libel For Search Results In Australia 223

Meshach writes "Google has been found guilty for refusing to take down a libelous search result in an Australian court (ruling). Music promoter Milorad Trkulja sued Google for refusing to take down links to website articles promoting libelous claims that Trkulja was connected to organized crime in Melbourne. Google told Trkulja to contact the sites on which the offensive materials were posted, as those webmasters controlled the content. But the Supreme Court of Victoria decided Google was responsible for removing the damaging links the moment Trkulja asked them to remove the content. As a result of the jury's decision in the case, Google will have to pay $200,000 in damages to Trkulja."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Found Guilty of Libel For Search Results In Australia

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:49PM (#42111055)

    It's not Google's link to the content but Google Cache repoducing and redistributing the 'libelous' content.

  • by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @08:16PM (#42111311)

    If you read the judgement (radical idea, I know), you'll see that a big part of the reason that Google was found liable here was the cached version of the article, as well as the Google Image Search results (which are a "page of Google's own making" not merely a link or reference to another source).

    Indeed the judgement makes it quite clear that merely linking or indexing is not considered publication under Australian common law. Google themselves have been found not guilty in similar cases in Australia before, by relying on this defence. But this case was a bit different. There was the image search results, which Google must be assumed under the law to be the original publisher of (who else could be, given that the page is generated by Google and not exist anywhere else on the web?).

    18 The question of whether or not Google Inc was a publisher is a matter of mixed fact and law. In my view, it was open to the jury to find the facts in this proceeding in such a way as to entitle the jury to conclude that Google Inc was a publisher even before it had any notice from anybody acting on behalf of the plaintiff. The jury were entitled to conclude that Google Inc intended to publish the material that its automated systems produced, because that was what they were designed to do upon a search request being typed into one of Google Inc’s search products. In that sense, Google Inc is like the newsagent that sells a newspaper containing a defamatory article. While there might be no specific intention to publish defamatory material, there is a relevant intention by the newsagent to publish the newspaper for the purposes of the law of defamation.

    19 By parity of reasoning, those who operate libraries have sometimes been held to be publishers for the purposes of defamation law. That said, newsagents, librarians and the like usually avoid liability for defamation because of their ability to avail themselves of the defence of innocent dissemination (a defence which Google Inc was able to avail itself of for publications of the images matter prior to 11 October 2009, and all of the publications of the web matter that were the subject of this proceeding).

    20 As was pointed out by counsel for the plaintiff in his address to the jury, the first page of the images matter (containing the photographs I have referred to and each named “Michael Trkulja” and each with a caption “melbournecrime”) was a page not published by any person other than Google Inc. It was a page of Google Inc’s creation – put together as a result of the Google Inc search engine working as it was intended to work by those who wrote the relevant computer programs. It was a cut and paste creation (if somewhat more sophisticated than one involving cutting word or phrases from a newspaper and gluing them onto a piece of paper). If Google Inc’s submission was to be accepted then, while this page might on one view be the natural and probable consequence of the material published on the source page from which it is derived, there would be no actual original publisher of this page.

  • Re:Rediculous. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @08:22PM (#42111365)

    Read the judgement. Of particular relevance, the paragraphs beginning with paragraph 18. If they WERE just linking, then it would not be publication and they would not have been found guilty. But in this case, they were generating content themselves (under the legal definition, at least...)

  • Re:Bit slow eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by choprboy ( 155926 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @08:55PM (#42111753) Homepage

    It's OK... Slashdot covered it two weeks ago too... [] So it's not really slow, just the standard dupe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:09PM (#42111881)

    This is actually a 8 year long story.

    Trkulja was sitting at a restaurant in 2004 when he got shot in the back by a gang member. He survived and didn't know why the shooting had occurred as it appeared to not be random. So he searches online and finds himself listed as an associate and possible hit man for a Melbourne drug gang based off of a single picture.

    Yes he sues the site and wins, he then finds that he is listed as a hitman in a yahoo group and sues and wins after Yahoo does nothing. He then finds that he comes up in google searches consistently as a hitman and in image searches, many returning images for the site/s that no longer present the images.

    In 2008 he requests Google stop returning said image. They knock him back, there is a lot of back and forth and he has several previous court cases stating the exact image and associated text is libelous and Google is still presenting it in some cases independent of the now corrected originating sites. So he eventually sues Google and wins. I'm not a lawyer but it doesn't appear completely bad that Google should react to take down notices for images that are not even being shown by the original site anymore.

    If I was a news service and declared an parliamentarian to be a pedo and didn't do enough to check, I lose a bunch of executives and suffer financial penalties. If the original he's a pedo story constantly gets presented by search engines even though it is wrong then what is the solution. I would think some form of correction aimed at search engines is not out of the question.

    The interesting thing here is Googles' profit model is based on screwing with search results for money. So I see no problem with them being required to screw with search results for legal reasons. Of course Google could also pay some tax in Australia but that's another issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:27PM (#42112617)

    "If all of your contacts, entertainment services, and backups are chained into Apple - well, then you're just shit out of luck if you want to move.

    I want to see a complete separation of church and state here. Hardware should be separate from software. Software should be separate from services.

    I want to watch Nokia movies on my Samsung hardware running Google's Android, and then back them up to DropBox.

    That's how it works - more or less - in the PC space. I don't understand why it doesn't in the tablet and smartphone space? Why would I buy a tablet that only worked with content from one provider? Whether that's Amazon, Microsoft or Apple - it's setting up a nasty little monopoly which will drive up prices and drive down quality.

    I know, I know. The mantra of "It Just Works". I'm mildly sick of having to configure my tablet to talk to my NAS, and then get the TV to talk to both of them. That situation isn't just due to my equipment all coming from different manufacturers - it's mostly due to those manufacturers not implementing open standards." []

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky