Italian Judge Declines To Dismiss Lawsuit Charging Google Execs As Criminals For YouTube Video

from the bad-law dept

The judge in Italy hearing the ridiculous case charging Google executives with criminal charges (which could lead to jail time) because of a video uploaded to YouTube, has declined to dismiss the case, and will allow it to proceed. The lawsuit is ridiculous on many levels, and it’s difficult to see any common sense explanation for why it should be allowed to proceed.

The case involves a video of some kids taunting a boy with Down syndrome, which was uploaded to YouTube. The very fact that it was uploaded to YouTube actually allowed the kids in question to get caught and punished appropriately for their actions. In other words, by any reasonable thought process, the video helped bring these kids to justice. YouTube and Google should be thanked. Instead, Italian authorities are trying to put five of their execs in jail for this. Those execs had nothing to do with the making of the video. They had nothing to do with the uploading of the video. Most of the execs being charged aren’t even in Italy. They had nothing at all to do with any of this. Not only that, but Google appears to have acted quite admirably in this situation. Once they were alerted to the video, they had it pulled down off the site within hours.

But, one of the lawyers working on the case against Google states: “The outcome of this will be to determine how big companies like Google should be expected to act.” What’s unclear is how Google could have acted in any more reasonable a manner than what it did. The reality may be that the outcome of the case will determine whether any service provider will allow their services to be used in Italy. After seeing this case, I would imagine that many online service providers are now considering blocking access to all Italian ISPs. The liability (possible jail time?!?) is way too high for simply allowing people in Italy to use your service.

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Comments on “Italian Judge Declines To Dismiss Lawsuit Charging Google Execs As Criminals For YouTube Video”

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Emanuele Cipolla (user link) says:

Conflicting behaviours

Here in Italy, at the moment, some people are messing about the ways you should be prosecuted using telecommunication evidences. Our government is willing to back Senator D’Alia proposal about site shutdowns if it publish content inciting visitors not to abide by the law (, Italian only, sorry), while at the same time is trying to forbide the use of lawful telephone interceptions in trials. The declination by that judge to dismiss these charges is only another hint at the confusion nearly every people in charge of something in Italy have about this field (and it would be relieving if it was only this one: unfortunately, things are getting worse in several others).

Nelson Cruz says:

Great of business in Italy... NOT!

If the google execs are convicted, the criminal liability bar will be set so low that I expect no foreign business man will want to step foot in Italy from now on. Even the fact that one exec was arrested and prosecuted is troubling enough. Anyone who is involved with any company supplying services or products potentially used for criminal actions, or even just to publicize them(!!!), could be liable. This would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

If the Italian laws permit this, I’m surprised Italian prosecutors haven’t arrested the entire Vatican for employing, concealing and protecting sex offenders (as well as harassing and threatening victims).

If only a few million people believed Larry Page or Sergey Brin where sons of god…

Nelson Cruz says:

Re: Re:

@Anonymous Coward
I know the Vatican is an independent country. And so is the USA where Google operates! The Italian authorities are prosecuting people that don’t reside or work in Italy, and that are employees of an american company. How can italian law possibly apply defies all reason.

But if it applies to google, it must apply even more to the Vatican, which although technically being a sovereign nation is located inside Rome. I wonder who investigates, prosecutes, etc, if a murder happens inside the Vatican…

The Pope and the Cardinals could easily be charged with criminal offenses and arrested whenever they leave the Vatican and enter Italian territory (like the google exec). The problem would be diplomatic immunity. But if italian authorities are this insane, well…

(Hmmm… i’m starting to wonder if they would prosecute a Portuguese citizen for defamation using an american blog… better shut up now…)

NullOp says:


Lawyers are the scum of the earth….unless they happen to be working for you. Then they are angels!

First, we are discussing Italian law not American. So by some twist Google could actually be responsible here, somehow, someway. I consider it doubtful. The fact that the upload CAUSED the kids to get caught should be enough to satisfy any countries laws regarding this sort of thing. But, the judges hands might have been tied by the law. I think it is clear the right thing to do was to dismiss.

Eventually we’ll all be too ‘scared’ of litigation to do any thing at all. Someone ‘might’ bring suit or be ‘offended.’ Sad world indeed….

cococo says:

Re: Cut off Italy!

That would be unhelpfull.
They control people through tv and news.
Berlusconi is both the “Presidente del Consiglio” and owner of all main informations channels (tv, newspapers..)
He is also gonna block internet with a new law, the D’Alia anti-internet law which is coming out in these days.

They control people through tv and news. The only help can come from outside. And thats what people from italy prays for.

Grant says:

Why even bother have a "terms of service" agreement?

I’m not a lawyer but after reading through the Terms of Service for YouTube, doesn’t this sum things up?


The Website is controlled and offered by YouTube from its facilities in the United States of America. YouTube makes no representations that the YouTube Website is appropriate or available for use in other locations. Those who access or use the YouTube Website from other jurisdictions do so at their own volition and are responsible for compliance with local law.

This was copied and pasted directly from

From what I’ve read, Google acted responsibly, ethically and legally within the guidelines of its service statement. “Don’t shoot the messenger” as the old saying goes, prosecute those who actually commit the crime!

Palmyra says:

My Grandfather

I remember sitting at the table with my grandfather, aunts and uncles for Sunday dinner decades ago. Grandpa and the others were speaking Italian. They all broke out in a big laugh at one point. On the way home I asked my dad what had been so funny. He told me that grandpa said that the stupid stayed in Italy and the smart came to America. Being 7 at the time I had no idea what he meant. Being 61, I can see what he meant. God rest you Daddy and Grandpa!

Fushta says:

Italian Law: Everybody is Guilty

If you remember the death of legendary Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna. He tragically died in an F1 race at the Imola race track in San Marino, Italy in 1994. Here is the video (not graphic).

The trial began in 1997 (story here). The managers of the Williams racing team were being tried for manslaughter due to an alleged faulty weld in the steering column. Basically, everyone is guilty until the Italian courts figure it all out.

There is more to the story, and they were found not guilty, but the overall trial took several years to resolve.

Candace Clemens (user link) says:

Italy vs. Google/YouTube

I agree that the video helped catch the bad kids AND helps our society to address the whole issue of “unacceptable behavior.” If not posted publicly, this video would still exist and all who “enjoy” watching — let alone DOING — this behavior would go unpunished.

The action of Google — to remove offensive material — is all we can expect from a free service such as YouTube. I think the U.S. isn’t the only country in need of some serious tort reform.

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