Google Fighting Spanish Law Requiring It To Remove Links Based On Privacy Claims

from the links-are-not-content dept

We’ve noted in the past that while the US tends to value free speech over privacy, Europe tends to lean the other way. Obviously, this is a generalization and it’s not an absolute statement or true in all cases — but generally speaking, that’s how the two regions lean. This is now playing out in a lawsuit in Spain, where the Spanish government’s data protection agency is demanding that Google remove links to websites that it says include privacy violations. Google is now fighting this effort in court, noting that it should not be held responsible for the content on other sites. It notes, quite reasonably, that if the content is objectionable or illegal then the only reasonable response is to target those who are actually responsible for it, rather than a search engine that links to it. Google points out in its lawsuit that European law says that publishers are responsible for their content and making a search engine liable goes against that. Of course, European law is actually somewhat vague on that point and in some countries it has been held that 3rd parties can be liable. That this creates tremendous chilling effects on free speech is just one of the many problems this causes.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google Fighting Spanish Law Requiring It To Remove Links Based On Privacy Claims”

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bwp (profile) says:

Mike, I'm usually with you but....

…I think you are using being a little melodramatic here. I’m talking about this line – “That this creates tremendous chilling effects on free speech is just one of the many problems this causes.”

I don’t think that EU law being somewhat vague or that 3rd parties being held liable creates a “TREMENDOUS” chilling effect on free speech. As you often say, show me the proof. Not anecdotal proof, but show me where EU authors, artists, bloggers, etc. are coming out to say that they are now afraid to speak their minds.

I know that TD is basically a place for you to speak your mind but now that you do have a large readership, I would hope that you would either make sure you can back up any comment made or tone down the rhetoric. I think it would have been better to say that the ambiguity in EU law could cause an impact to free speech in the EU. Google should be commended in fighting in court and hopefully the ruling will clarify at least some of the ambiguity in the EU laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 3rd party liability out of control

While it is not popular, it is the reason why agreements like ACTA end up being so important, because it creates a level playing field, even if you don’t like the level.

There is very likely to be an internet agreement some time in the future that will govern data, privacy, and so on, in a manner that makes it easier for business (and individuals) to use the internet without fear of random legal actions in various countries.

As for Google, they already block plenty of things in plenty of countries (such as Germany), so it isn’t unusual that they would end up blocking things in Spain. They started down this road, there isn’t a lot of space for turning back.

alex (profile) says:

i know it's a can of worms but...

I don’t think it’s black and white to say that you should be able to link to whatever you want. The “we don’t host it, we just link to it” argument isn’t sound. For example, if someone has a blog linking to copyright content hosted on one-click hosting sites (like rapidshare or megaupload), is that ok because they aren’t actually hosting it? Is that actually the hosting site in the wrong?

I think if Google have sufficient reason to believe they are linking to illegal material, they should be obliged to remove their links.

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

i know it's a can of worms but...

By the same logic if CBS news had a story where they said “, a popular online filesharing site where users upload music for others to download for free; has been sued today by the Recording Industry Association of America to the tune of 1 trillion dollars for Copyright infringement, the largest suit ever filed by the RIAA”..

Seems perfectly innocent… but by the same logic CBS news is linking to Its not through a textual link but spoken word, either way it is still a link. Maybe TV news should get sued for mentioning all these companies.

DH's Love Child (profile) says:

i know it's a can of worms but...

Apples and oranges. Google merely indexes sites. They do not actively go to every link and hand code them into their engine.

Links on a blog are intentionally placed there by a person, who still may or may not know if they’re legal (and remember ‘legal’ is relative to jurisdiction…), but a computer algorithm has no way of knowing that. Remember that Google pulled out of China for reasons very similar to this.

anothermike says:

3rd party liability out of control

Agreements like ACTA are so dangerous because the playing field will never be level. When one country caves to the content protection industry’s lobbying, all other signatories will face additional pressure to “meet their international obligations”. But they end up in a game of protectionist leapfrog. The first country says, “OK, we’ll triple penalties for willful infringement.” The next country on the hit list says, “We’ll see your treble damages and raise you term extensions.” Eventually, the consumer ends up paying mandatory licensing to copyright holders for content nobody’s been allowed to perform in a century.
Third-party liability is out of control (and should be out of the question) but ACTA and its ilk are not the solution.

AcWAr says:


Still not, but if the Spanish equivalent of RIAA (SGAE in spain) finds that somehow any other search engine is breaking his own rules (wich are different from the Spanish laws) they’ll suit them.

In Spain the Law considers legal to link a file , site or whatever you want.It has been proved in a lot of judgements in the past 5 years, the Judges almost always said that it’s legal to have, use and mantain a link system and it can not be a crime by any mean.

It’s not Spain who’s suiting Google, it’s the SGAE and i seriously doubt that they could get some profit of this.

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