The Duty Not to Find …

On the heels of the European Court of Justice’s decision, discussed on Slaw here and here, to require Google to suppress links to particular web sites that had ‘irrelevant and outdated’ personal information about a complainant, and US courts’ refusal to do the same, the British Columbia Supreme Court has now gone a step further: it has ordered Google to ensure that searches for particular topics or a particular company do not find the company defendant in the action before it.

The principals of the defendant company were accused of stealing trade secrets of the plaintiff and of using them to do business. The individual defendants were hard to find in person and had apparently made some efforts not to be found – but their business could be found online for those who searched for it.

For this reason the court required Google to stop people from finding the company.

The order applies to Google worldwide, not just to google.ca. Since the company was doing business into the US, one understands the attraction of the broader order.

Nevertheless, is this a justifiable result, either for an order against google.ca or for the broader one against google.com? How could the court have given an effective remedy against the defendants without such an order? An order restricted to google.ca (which Google may have been prepared to go along with) would have had little impact, according to the plaintiff.

Is this a free speech case, or ‘just’ an intellectual property case? If such an order can be made in an IP case, what prevents it from being made in a free speech case, and by a court in a place whose notions of free speech may be more restrictive than ours?

Retweet information »

Comments

  1. See this via Slate.

    This is an odd decision. Censoring google search results beyond the borders of a single country? Is that even enforceable?

    Why not figure out which jurisdictions are impacted the most, and then go fight it out one-by-one. Or, what about forcing the company to turn over the domain name? It could be fixed ‘globally’ at the source.

  2. The BC Court of Appeal has now upheld the trial court’s decision that it could and should issue an injunction against Google.ca and Google.com, with worldwide effect. Equustek Solutions v Google, Inc.

    It had some things to say about when a Canadian court should take jurisdiction over a non-resident non-party, and the limits it should impose on itself when dealing with matters (notably freedom of expression) that may be dealt with quite differently in places where the order would apply.

    Here is a discussion of the key points by Blakes.

    In other news, the French privacy authority (CNIL) has ordered Google to apply worldwide the EU court’s decision that it must suppress search results that reveal inappropriate personal information. Google had been applying the policy to EU domains like google.fr, but not to the main service, google.com. CNIL says it must do the latter, for French citizens. Other EU data protection authorities are likely to follow suit.

    Is there any limit? May any country impose its strong policies – on privacy, on intellectual property, on respect for whatever the country holds sacred – on the whole world’s search results? If the BCCA and CNIL decisions are right, Why not?