Google who strip content from newspapers and magazines much to the angst of newspaper proprietors, like Rupert Murdoch has been found not liable for defamatory comments that appear in news articles, blogs and forums displayed in its search results.
In what is a landmark ruling, a high court judge in the UK has ruled in Google’s favour.
The case, against Google’s US and UK operations, was brought by Metropolitan International Schools a European based organisation who runs learning classes for game developers, trading as Train2Game. MIS launched legal action over comments on the forum of a website that it claimed were defamatory and that appeared in Google’s search results.
The company claimed that Google was liable as a publisher of defamatory comments. Google responded that it has no responsibility for the words and comments.
Mr Justice Eady ruled in a judgment in the high court on Friday that Google was a “facilitator” and not a publisher of the content.
“When a snippet is thrown up on the user’s screen in response to his search, it points him in the direction of an entry somewhere on the web that corresponds, to a greater or lesser extent, to the search terms he has typed in,” Eady said. “It is for him to access or not, as he chooses. [Google] has merely, by the provision of its search service, played the role of a facilitator.”
Struan Robertson, a lawyer at Pinsent Masons told the Guardian newspaper, that this was the first judicial analysis of search engine liability for defamation under UK law. “It is undoubtedly a brilliant result for Google and other search engines,” Robertson concluded.
“We are pleased with this result, which reinforces the principle that search engines aren’t responsible for content that is published on third-party websites,” said a spokeman for Google.