Company Continues To Insist That Google Is Responsible For Libel On Any Site It Links To

from the sorry,-but,-no dept

Can a day go by without a story about a ridiculous lawsuit against Google? The latest is really more of an update of a case we wrote about a few years ago, where the company Dotworlds sent us their own press release, claiming that they were suing Google for linking to sites that contained libel (according to Dotworlds) against it. That, of course, was ridiculous, since Google is not the responsible party at all, and simply provides a search engine. We pointed that out in our post about it, and the folks from Dotworlds responded using an emotional, rather than legal, argument basically saying that it’s too much work to figure out who was actually responsible, so why shouldn’t they take the easy path and sue Google? The company is apparently now suing Google in the UK, since the UK’s libel laws are a lot stricter. So it’s entirely possible that a judge will find that Google somehow is liable for the content on others’ pages. The head of Dotworlds claims that Google is liable here because he’s informed it of the libelous statements — but that doesn’t change the simple fact that Google is not the one publishing those statements. Blaming Google for finding libelous statements is blaming the tool, not whoever is actually responsible. It may be easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

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Comments on “Company Continues To Insist That Google Is Responsible For Libel On Any Site It Links To”

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Mark Francis (user link) says:

Same in Canada

So far that’s the common law standard in Canada as well. As soon as you are made aware of a claim of libel, you are supposed to unlink from it. Otherwise, you are in a position of liability.

If you think this through, though, Google is in a tough spot: If the material is not libelous, then they’ve injured the other party. This, of course, also means that the powerful get to dictate what’s on the web.

For an interesting example of suing over linking, see:

I myself am being sued for having a link in a wiki, which led to another website which had a link on it which was objected to. When I received the objection, the link had been removed from the other website for months. I am, nevertheless, being sued for it. Even worse, this was all in the context of a Green Party of Canada internal elections. I was running a wiki promoting certain candidates. Even in the UK, this would be protected speech.

And, oh yes, the person who actually had the link? He’s not being sued.

Anonymous Coward says:


Really, this is a win-win for the plaintiff.

They talk about the so-called Streisand Effect on this site a lot, but in this case I think the phenomena is being exploited. Bringing the suit and publicizing it draws attention to his service. Issuing his own press releases when he sued the big G previously just points to this. If you don’t want people to know of the alleged libel, you don’t issue press releases about it. And if he should happen to actually win the suit, he gets the publicity and a settlement to boot.

Pure publicity stunts.

GoblinJuice says:


Dot… Words? Never heard of ’em.

Instead of going after people who bitch and moan about your product(s) (actually, going after an innocent third party that is just INDEXING the shit), how about improving? =) I know, it’s a crazy friggin’ idea.

Jeesh. Just imagine the shape Microsoft would be in right now if Gates went batshit everytime someone said something negative about him.

If DotWords (god that’s a lame name for a company) is successful, I plan to sue Google, too. Every time one of my ex’s says ANYTHING negative about me, that gets indexed by Google…. bwahaha. =) I’ll be RICH!

Anonymous Coward says:

“… The company is apparently now suing Google in the UK, since the UK’s libel laws are a lot stricter. So it’s entirely possible that a judge will find that Google somehow is liable …”
Are you confusing the words “stricter” with “stupider” or are you assuming that everything outside of the US is even stupider that stuff inside ?

Joe says:

Obviously it is Google’s fault for not taking action to include in their search code a way to not return illegal things.

While this is a bit extreme; I’d rather see the rulings apply to all things instead of 100 sites are forced shut because they link to other pages with copyrighted stuff than to see all those sites shut down but the big happy corporations are left out of any penalty like normally.

Anonymous Coward says:

They should add the PC/MAC manufacturers for providing the systems that allow a person to use the browser programs, the monitor companies for displaying the urls, the nic and router companies for transmitting the signals and the OS companies for developing software GUIs that allow the browsers to run, thus allowing Google to search the sites that have the libelous information on them.

Hmmm, wonder if they should toss in the office furniture that “hosts” the offending hardware.

Surool says:

To make the arguement is to loose it

To proove that they’ve been liabled, they need Google to find the offending comments. They prove that Google brings up a link to the offending site… but also prove that using Google gives them the website that actually published the liablous statement in the first place. So, I guess it wasn’t really THAT hard to find out who was really responsible, but Google has deeper pockets.

Scott says:

The precedent has already been set...

A few years ago I purchased a house, my first foray into being a homeowner. As it turns out, a man that had owned the house about ten years prior had robbed a bank and fled the country.

One day I had a knock at the door, when I answered it I found the local sheriff at my door waiting to handcuff me. Turns out that they didn’t think they would ever actually catch the man, but they did know that he had once lived at my address. They got to punish someone I guess. I should be out of jail by the time I’m 75, but I guess that’s just how this stuff works.

Bigdog says:

Your argument makes no sense as it too is “emotionally” based. You say that google is not responsible for the content it links because it is the tool, not the user? Well how about when a website links to a pirated movie file or software? Or how about the DVD-Squeeze dvd copying software that people use to copy copywritten DVD’s? That’s a tool.

lyndon hood says:

Defamation, UK style

This is stupid and sucks but, as you say, it’s possible the judge may find them liable.

It’s like this – if it’s defamatory to say “blah”, then it’s also defamatory to say “so-and-so says blah”. In practical terms it’s like repeating the assertion. That’s effectively what google does with its index (provided the index results contain some of the claims), and having been informed of it – or at least of some particular instance of it – they’re responsible for its continued presence.

For it to be defamatory, the assertions would have to be false, damaging and on matters of fact. At least that’s the way it would work (here) in New Zealand, where they system is much the same. The damages in this instance might no be too much to worry about, though.

Remember Google has been know to fear the lawyers in the past, at least as far as scientology is concerned.

But yeah, thanks to this suit the only thing i know about dotworlds is that they’re dicks.

John says:

google's ass

Unfortunately for Google’s ass there is president against them in the form of Napster v. RIAA. In Nap v RIAA the RIAA lawyers successfully argued that while Napster itself wasn’t braking any laws directly it was in fact being an enabler and in that breaking the law. Because they allowed this content to be spread from person to person. In that case Napster claimed to be only a search tool. As we all know, they lost. In this case it is possible to come after google and say that this is content that only a tool such as google would enable the person to find. And if the material is copy write, then google could potentially be found to be at fault. This is backed up by the recent, about a year ago, supreme court case that over turned Sony v Beta Max. The new high court ruling holds the enabling technology responsible for the use of that technology. But of course there is a catch.

In both court cases the technology in question was primarily being used for the search and transfer of copy write material. Google in this case will, most likely successfully , argue that because the primary use of their service is not the distribution of copy write material that in fact they are exempt from these rulings. If the plaintiff cannot show a majority use of Google to transfer protected documents then the law suite will be dropped. The reason that this is the most likely outcome is because this one site, and thus copy write material from this plaintiff, only represent a tiny tiny fraction of Google’s overall searches. In the other court cases the RIAA represented a majority of the material being transfered via those mediums. A united front and more expensive lawyers make all the difference.

Anonymous Coward #2 says:

Spelling police eeplying to John

You make good points but your arguments are terribly defeated by your orthography!

…there is president against them…

-> You meant “precedent.”

…wasn’t braking any laws…

-> arghh… breaking

breaking the law.

there you got it!

And if the material is copy write…
…and thus copy write material …

-> copyrighted

A united front and more expensive lawyers make all the difference.

Is true!

Anonymous Coward says:

oh dear

“(random business) sucks” search controversy is a laugh and a half.

There’s a TechDirt repost on Addict3d ( with a single comment made by dotWORLDS. Some bizarre denigration of Google having no use, or whatever. Isn’t that something that they themselves seem to be suiting up over?

They also signed up in June on Google’s own Blogger service, posting only two things and leaving it.

Same day, in that order. On Google’s own blog service, they condemn Google (a matter of poor taste) and then announce their own private service using Google’s name, apparently with the justification of Google being a genericized trademark (VERY poor taste, and with questionable legality).

Were things this petty before the dotcom boom and bust, or was I not paying attention back then?

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