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.

Filed Under: criminal charges, italy, liability, online video, youtube
Companies: google

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2010 @ 4:04am

    A few words about the privacy law for which Google exec were condemned.
    In Italy you cannot publish a video or a picture of a kid without the parents' consent.
    This law adds bureaucracy that is probably unbearable to an american, but it also protects the children and children in Italy are sacred (and often spoiled).
    Google created an ecosystem where you can violate this law without being liable.
    To an american Italian laws could sound like a terrible limitation of free expression, but the law really was meant to protect the citizens. Another interesting aspect of this law is that you cannot keep a database of other people's data without their consent, so a positive aspect of this law is that Italians receive very seldom phone calls with commercial offers because you can oblige a company to remove your name and data from their database within 30 days, including your phone number.
    A few more bits of information to understand the italian culture:
    In the US freedom is more than a value, I would dare to say it is a religion while in Italy human dignity is considered a value more important than freedom. As every generalization, this statement cannot be precise, but if you know a bit both countries the cultural difference on this point is IMHO evident.
    More than 80% of Italians honestly trust the police (Carabinieri), so most italians don't see the Police as people helping the Gov't to control the citizens, but rather as people doing a difficult job and protecting the people.
    I don't know anybody, also far left, stating that in Italy you cannot freely and publicly express your dissent.
    Actually dissenting with the Gov't in some places is as common as talking about the weather (this was equally true of the previous Gov't when Berlusconi was not in charge).
    Media are an issue, especially most TV channels being too close to the Gov't in every sense, but that is, IMHO a different story.

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