"When they start picking and choosing, they are no longer a search engine, they are a content provider right?"
They already do this for corporate media without doing any checking at all. Have you never done a search & seen that DMCA notice at the bottom of the page, with the link to the Chilling Effects website? Go click on the link some time, it's quite an eye-opener.
Like they have for Pirate Bay & other torrent sites? Not that I don't agree with your wider point, but big media have already criminalised linking to Stuff We Don't Like, & with the passage of the TPP & other corporate-friendly things, it's going to get much, much worse.
There must be a publication of some sort, to a person other than the plaintiff. If the defendant even says something to someone else, that is a publication. Obviously, broadcast on television, an article in a newspaper and an article downloaded from the worldwide web are all publications. The publication is taken to have occurred when a person understands the words that were published. So for internet purposes, this takes place when a person, other than the plaintiff, downloads an article from a website and understands the words that are contained in that article. The place of publication is the place where the words are read and understood.
The publication must be of and concerning the plaintiff. It does not need to name the plaintiff, but if it doesn’t there must be some extrinsic facts, which if the reader was aware of, would enable the ordinary reasonable reader to identify the plaintiff.
3. Defamatory meaning
This is a two-stage process. Firstly, identify what is meant by the publication and secondly whether the imputations arising from the publication are defamatory. A publication is defamatory of a plaintiff if it contains imputations that:
• have a tendency to lower the plaintiff’s estimation in the eyes of right-thinking members of the society generally; or • were calculated to injure the reputation of the plaintiff by exposing him or her to hatred, contempt or ridicule; • have the capacity and tend to put the plaintiff in the position of being shunned and avoided.
The imputations can arise from the natural and ordinary meaning of words, or there can be inferences, such as false or popular innuendoes.
In most defamation cases, the issue is not whether the plaintiff has been defamed, but it is whether the defendant has a defence to the claim. To balance the community interests in having free speech and a proper functioning democratic society, there exist a range of defences that have been created by the common law over time and also according to Statute. These defences are essentially as follows:
1. Truth or justification
If the imputations are true, then the defendant has a complete defence. Regardless of what was published, the plaintiff loses. And it is the worst way to lose. The allegations are repeated at trial, over and over and possibly reported on by the media. The jury then declares that the defamation is true, exacerbating the defamation many times over. Then there is the matter of having to pay the defendant’s costs…. The statute also provides that if the imputations are substantially true, then the defendant has a defence of justification.
2. Fair comment or honest opinion
A defendant is allowed to publish a fair comment or honest opinion. For fair comment, the comment must be based on facts that are truly stated (or absolutely privileged) and the comment must be fair. For honest opinion, all that is required is that the opinion be held honestly (almost regardless of what it is!), that the opinion was based on proper material and that it was on a matter of public interest.
The next step is that the fair comment defence can be defeated if the publisher is actuated by malice. Malice is proven where a person makes a statement for an improper purpose or has an improper motive.
3. Absolute privilege
There are certain occasions where a publication is covered by absolute privilege. This means the person can say whatever they like and they have a complete defence to any defamation claim. For instance, statements made by politicians in the Houses of Parliament, extracts of certain public documents or statements made by witnesses or barristers in court (or during inquiries), are all covered by absolute privilege. You might sometimes hear politicians in the Houses urging their opponents to repeat their statements on the steps outside. This is why.
4. Qualified privilege
The next level of privilege is qualified privilege. This means there are certain situations where the statements made by people are covered by privilege and the person has a defence to any defamation claim, subject to this: that defence is defeated if the person making the statement is actuated by malice.
There are a range of situations where the qualified privilege defence exists. They include the following.
4.1 Qualified privilege: Fair and accurate report of proceedings of public concern
This applies to reports of court proceedings, parliamentary proceedings and a range of other types of proceedings that are public in nature. Obviously, the report has to be fair and it has to be accurate.
4.2 Qualified privilege: Duty to publish in circumstances where the recipient has a corresponding interest in receiving the information
This applies to situations where there is a reciprocal duty to publish and an interest in receiving the information. For instance, an employee might make statements about another person’s job performance to the Managing Director of the business, for the purposes of the management of the business. Or if a neighbor tells another neighbor that a person down the street had been investigated by police in relation to a number of violent incidents. Once again, this defence would be defeated by malice.
4.3 Qualified privilege: Discussion of government and political matter
In 1998, it was held by the High Court that there exists in the Commonwealth Constitution an implied freedom to communicate about government and political matters. This is provided that the publisher acts reasonably, which usually involves things like asking the person that is the subject of the publication for their version of events. This was a real boon for the media companies, who then had further freedom when discussing the performance of politicians and other people in public positions. As for politicians, well they were no longer renovating their homes on the back of newspaper articles questioning their sanity.
4.4 Qualified privilege: reply to Attack
An ancient defence was the reply to attack defence. This means that if a person, in making defamatory statements, is simply replying or providing an answer to an attack from the plaintiff, then there may be a defence of qualified privilege. This is a rare defence but with the advent of the internet, is likely to get used more in the future.
5. Innocent dissemination
Any person who takes part in the publication of material is, as a matter of law, taken to be a publisher of that material. This includes the author, editor, publisher and distributor. So that newsagents or other innocent disseminators are not held to be liable for defamation, the common law and the relevant legislators have created a defence of innocent dissemination. This also may have relevance to a range of new types of internet claims, perhaps involving internet service providers or hyperlinks.
Yes, it is. It's completely in line with more than a century of Australian legal precedent. Moreover, it's not even the first time Google has been sued in Australia for defamation, & they've lost at least one case: http://www.news.com.au/technology/man-wins-defamation-case-against-google-over-images-published -online/story-e6frfro0-1226507563956 "The jury found that Google was able to rely on the defence of "innocent dissemination" up until 2009 when the man's solicitors contacted Google to have the image removed." And: "The ruling comes almost eight months after the man won a similar case against Yahoo! who was ordered by the Victorian Supreme Court to pay damages of $225,000."
That's a ridiculous analogy because it doesn't involve selecting or rejecting the actual text. That's like arguing that it's not a copyright violation if you publish an article in a different font, colour, or layout to the original.
None of this includes deciding whether or not to show particular content. Although the previous commenter makes a good point about HDCP, which - if you're silly enough to spend your money on devices with DRM - will do Big Media's bidding.
"Further, his decision subscribes to the "no harm was done until it was published" position."
That's a completely reasonable take on defamation law. The entire point of defamation law is to protect people's good name, therefore the wider the content is spread, & the greater the credibility of the publisher, the greater the harm. In theory, an Australian could be sued for yelling defamatory insults at their neighbour over the adjoining fence, but in practice a judge would laugh it out of court. But publish the same stuff in the newspaper & it'd be very serious business.
They would be, but of course it'd be hard to enforce the judgement. This, by the way, is why it's pointless to directly sue defamatory foreign scam sites run by judgement-proof people like the owner of RipoffReport. Google's deep pockets are only part of the equation.