Monday, August 18, 2014

Defamation and the liability of search engine providers

The following Supreme Court of NSW decision was delivered last week by McCallum J: Bleyer v Google Inc [2014] NSWSC 897 http://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/action/PJUDG?jgmtid=172529.

Her Honour expressly declined to follow Beach J in Trkulja v Google, and preferred the English line of cases. This was not a final decision on the merits (consideration was in the context of a permanent stay application, given low prospects of success), however the reasoning in this case is likely to be given significant weight in any future consideration of these issues. Her Honour does leave open the question, however, of whether liability may arise once notification of a complaint is received by the search engine provider.

An extract:

[83]  The evidence before me establishes that there is no human input in the application of the Google search engine apart from the creation of the algorithm. I would respectfully disagree with the conclusion reached by Beach J in Trkulja that the performance of the function of the algorithm in that circumstance is capable of establishing liability as a publisher at common law. I would adopt the English line of authority to the effect that, at least prior to notification of a complaint (and on the strength of the evidence before me), Google Inc cannot be liable as a publisher of the results produced by its search engine.

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