Incredible: Google Execs Found Guilty Because Of YouTube Video; Given Six Month Suspended Sentences

from the legal-world-gone-mad dept

This is just downright ridiculous. We see all sorts of jaw-dropping legal rulings around here, but I still can't fathom how Italian law allowed the following case to be decided in this manner. As you may recall, a couple years ago, Italian prosecutors filed criminal charges against four Google execs. What was the crime? Apparently, some kids had taunted another boy with Down's Syndrome, and filmed the whole episode. In the video, the kids apparently threw a tissue box at the boy. They then uploaded the video to YouTube, along with the countless other videos uploaded to the site. Nearly a year ago, YouTube noted that 20 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute. To think that Google should automatically have knowledge of what's included in every video uploaded to YouTube is ludicrous.

But it's even more ridiculous when you realize the full story. Within hours of Google being alerted to the problems with the video, the video came down. In other words, the company acted promptly when questions about the video were raised. But, even more importantly, the video itself was used as evidence to punish the taunting teens. Now imagine if they hadn't been able to upload the video. Then the kids likely would have gotten away with the taunting, without anyone knowing about it. Why would you ever want to blame Google for providing a tool that allows stupid people to give proof of their own illegal activities? And even then, rather than filing a suit against Google the company, Italian prosecutors chose to file the lawsuit against four execs at the company, most of whom had nothing to do with the company's Italian operations.

You might think that a judge would toss this sort of lawsuit out really quickly, but that didn't happen, and now, amazingly, the court has found three of the four execs to be guilty and given them six month suspended jail sentences. I vaguely remember reading that "first time offenders" given prison sentences in Italy of three years or less get suspended sentences, so the suspended sentence part isn't surprising. But, of course, given how many videos are uploaded, it seems likely that there will be second, third and further offenses of this nature as well. It seems like Italy has just suggested Google block all access to YouTube, while also increasing the liability for pretty much any other company to operate there or have any foreign execs visit the country.

Honestly, I can't see how anyone would make a ruling in this manner and think that it makes sense. As I said when the case first came up, you would think that suing the execs of the company that made the tissue box would make more sense than suing Google's execs. Why not charge the execs of the company that made the camera that was used to film the incident? It's hard to hear about this ruling and not consider the Italian legal system to be a joke.

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  1. identicon
    David, 24 Feb 2010 @ 4:22pm

    Sovereignty

    One thing that judges have to consider is what the precedent would be of their rulings. Nobody is considering what the precedent would be had google won. Consider the following scenario:

    I, Mr Sleazebag, realize that Google's winning exempts providers from virtually all complaints provided that they are reasonably responsive, so I register www.hotnudeitaliangirls.com and set up shop. I allow anyone to anonymously upload photos and video of hot nude italian girls (all I require is the user click a box indicating they have the legal right to upload the file). I then charge $20 a month to allow people to view my excellent collection of contributed porn.

    Now Alice broke up with her boyfriend Bob, and Bob uploads those photos to my site. Unless Alice is willing to pay the $20 to check out my site she won't be able to establish that I have her photos, and therefore won't be able to make a well formed request that I remove the files, and I can continue to sell them with virtual impunity.

    Anyone can plainly see a reasonable policy goal in requiring that user-generated content be moderated and that all interested parties grant approval for it to be published. Whether or not it is practical or cost-effective for a country to have such a low is another matter entirely.

    Yes that would make YouTube illegal, and would make Google's behaviour criminal (whether or not the responded in 2 days or 2 months). Its called sovereignty, and its been an established legal principal for centuries.

    PS. It is remarkable to me the degree to which American society has accepted things like YouTube. This opinion piece is consistent with the vast majority of other articles out there. No wonder many older individuals find Facebook/YouTube strange.

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