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Google to remove 'torrent' from autocomplete search, says court

Court insists that the ruling could help prevent future copyright infringement
Thu Jul 19 2012, 14:53
Google logo (Robert Scoble Flickr)

INTERNET SEARCH LEADER Google might have to censor the search terms "torrent", "rapidshare" and "megaupload" from its autocomplete list following a ruling by the French Supreme Court.

Headed by the music industry group SNAP, the lawsuit claims that by failing to filter these specific search terms, Google is implicitly allowing copyright infringement.

The case, which has been on-going since 2010 when SNAP filed the lawsuit to force Google to filter certain terms from its Instant and Autocomplete features, is now headed for an appeals court for a final ruling.

SNAP alleged that when a well-known French musician is typed into Google search, it autocompletes the suggestion by adding file-sharing sites.

Despite the court case, Google has already removed millions of URLs that link to copyrighted or allegedly 'pirated' material. However, the court insists that the ruling could help prevent future copyright infringement.

However, a lawyer at international law firm Pinsent Masons, Luke Scanlon seems to think there's two sides to the story.

"On the one hand, there is no doubt that Courts within the European Union have the power to order online service providers to prevent IP infringements by disabling access to infringing content," Scanlon told The INQUIRER.

"On the other, the European Directives prohibit all EU countries, so the UK and France equally, from imposing any 'general obligation' on an online service provider, such as Google, to monitor the information which it transmits or stores in providing its services."

"So the question is one of balance and degree - how many hoops can a court require an online service provider to jump through in order to assist in preventing IP infringements?"

Scanlon added that forcing Google to monitor by automated means all search queries for the word 'torrent' would go beyond what is permissible by the European Directives.

"Torrent files are a form of innovative technology that can be used for both legal and illegal purposes. An order gagging Google from ever using the word 'torrent' would go too far and unduly restrict the free use of information in my opinion," he said. µ


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