The search giant Google, that this blogger remembers as popular new device with Berkeley and Stanford students back in 1999, had one major legal victory and another major legal loss: one regarding thumbnails and the other on an allegedly illegal set of Canadian ads involving Google’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Page.
In the first case, a website firm called “Perfect 10,” which features photos and webcams of scantily-clad women, sued Google for a wrongheaded reason. Perfect 10 claims that Google AdSense users who obtained photos of women from Google Image Searches that were originally on Perfect 10 were illegally benefiting from that ability, as were Blogger account holders, and so because Google gains revenue from the Google AdWords side of Google AdSense (where AdWord hosts the ads, and Google AdSense places the ads hosted by AdWords).
Perfect 10’s lawsuit against Google, filed in 2006, failed in the U.S. District Court, Central District Of California, in Los Angeles; Google filed a “Motion Of Summmary Judgment” and won (for the most part). A “Motion Of Summmary Judgment,” is a legal way of saying ‘We think this case has no merit, so please, judge, toss it.” That’s what happened to a large degree – a door was left open.
Where Google got into a wee bit of legal snags was in its failure to timely respond to DMCA takedown notices from Perfect 10. (The court documents can be obtained here.)
Perfect 10 then filed an appeal, which lost on August 12th, 2011 in the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals In San Francisco.
Nothing against Perfect 10, but it’s good for the World Wide Web that Google won. Had Perfect 10 been the victor, it would have opened the flood gates for a rash of lawsuits for every link from an originating content website, basically killing the orderly propagation of web-based news, and the blogsphere as we know it.
Moreover, Perfect 10 has a history of filing so many lawsuits regarding its images of naked women, it was accused of “clogging up the legal system.” Perhaps Perfect 10 will work on ways to improve its service and stop trying to get the legal system to do it.
While Google’s victory over Perfect 10 is one to celebrate, the other legal battle – one that Google lost – gives cause for some concern.
Basically, the second case has it that Chief Executive Officer Larry Page knew of illegal online pharmacy ads served on Google Adwords, yet turned a blind eye to the violation. But worse, Google’s $500 million settlement settlement with the Department Of Justice DOJ is such that emails and documents proving that Page “knew what was going on” – according to Peter Neronha, the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney who led the investigation – will never been released.
Had Google elected to challenge the DOJ, all of the emails and documents would have been publicly released during the trial.
Both cases, and the potentially larger issue of how Google’s Panda code has negatively impacted traffic to many websites (not this blogger’s) show just how important Internet search has become to the overall function of the American Economy.
I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: Google must start using system dynamics and the same scenario planning processes employed by large oil companies. For all practical purposes, Google is a public utility. The only problem is the U.S. Government doesn’t see it as such – yet.
But the fact is, in the strictest definition of a public utility, where it “is an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service (often also providing a service using that infrastructure),” there can be little argument that Google fits that definition.
Stay tuned, but read about the Google Panda issue here.