Is Google a publisher or simply a relayer of information? That’s an important question from a legal standpoint. Google’s enemies / competitors want to go after Google no matter which position is taken.
Based on a decision coming from Australia though, they may have a tougher time than they might like if courts in other parts of the world follow suit.
Google Inc won a landmark court case on Wednesday when Australia’s High Court ruled that it had not engaged in misleading behavior with its sponsored links and that it was not responsible for messages conveyed by paid advertisers.
The ruling helps Internet providers and search engines argue that they are not publishers, but simply carriers of information provided by third parties.
While the judgment applies only in Australia, the ruling will be closely watched around the world and could be cited as a precedent in the event of similar cases arising in the rapidly evolving area of law.
Let the complaining begin!
I think it is a good ruling by the Aussies which follows a six-year battle between Google and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). If you boil down everything it appears as if the Australian court made its decision (which overturned an earlier decision) to give the users the responsibility of determining what is an ad and how it relates to their search. It’s actually saying that people should have enough sense to make the determination. It’s about personal responsibility so I love it.
In a unanimous finding, five judges of Australia’s High Court ruled in favor of Google, overturning a ruling from the Federal Court. The lower court had ordered Google to set up a compliance program to make sure paid advertisements on its search engine were not misleading.
The five High Court judges said Google did not create the sponsored links and the company was not responsible for messages in the links.
“Ordinary and reasonable users of the Google search engine would have understood that the representations conveyed by the sponsored links were those of the advertisers, and would not have concluded that Google adopted or endorsed the representations,” the court said.
Score one for asking people to use common sense which helps close the door (at least somewhat) on frivolous claims by parties trying to hit the ‘legal jackpot’.
The other side of the ledger is something to consider as well, though. Giving a company like Google carte blanche to not have any responsibility is a bit dangerous as well.
As with most things in life, the best answers are a blend of the two most extreme and opposite views. Unfortunately, most people are not strong enough to put together good compromises because it is viewed as a defeat rather than progress. That’s a rather weak stance but it’s one that a lot of folks take every day and it creates many more losing situations than winning ones. Such is life.
What’s your take on the decision? Is it smart? Is is just another way for Google to do some evil? I am sure we have readers in both camps so let’s hear it.