France’s Supreme Court May Force Google To Censor Search Results
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SNEP – which represents French music royalties – has been trying for years to make Google apply stronger anti-piracy policies when it comes to their autocomplete feature and the association of musical terms with keywords such as torrent, Rapidshare or Megaupload. Now it may succeed.
While the autocomplete feature is designed to make searching more efficient, France’s music royalty group SNEP concentrated all their efforts to make Google apply changes to the feature’s core code in order to discourage piracy.
In SNEP’s view, Google is doing the opposite, in the sense that it associates the two variables – music terms and piracy terms -, thus making it easier for the average online users to find and download copyrighted materials.
However, the French court did not agreed with SNEP and in 2010 it rejected the request, ruling that the terms’ transparency does not encourage illegal downloading of copyrighted materials. SNEP appealed the decision a year later but without luck.
Although the fight looked to be over, it seems like the Court de Cassation (Court of Cassation) decided on Thursday that the Court of Appeal violated a key clause of France’s laws on intellectual property. It agreed that SNEP has all the rights to demand that the court take “all measures to prevent or stop such an attack on a copyright or related rights.”
Now the case will be taken by the Court of Appeal in Versailles for another round of debates.
“Casse et Annule, dans toutes ses dispositions, l’arrêt rendu le 3 mai 2011, entre les parties, par la cour d’appel de Paris ; remet, en conséquence, la cause et les parties dans l’état où elles se trouvaient avant ledit arrêt et, pour être fait droit, les renvoie devant la cour d’appel de Versailles.”
Regarding this decision, SNEP’s CEO David El Sayegh said:
“This decision showing that search engines should be responsible for regulating the internet is a first in France”.
Google France reminded that while the company “takes very seriously” online infringement, autosuggest is merely an automatic response system to the users’ search terms. An interesting fact is that even though SNEP initially failed to force Google change their autocomplete, the search engine did start to filter some phrases.
“The company said in December that it would play nice with the big name record labels, TV networks, and movie studios, by providing better protection against piracy on the interwebs.
Accordingly, various search terms and file-sharing websites have now been erased from Google’s not-altogether spotless mind,” reads a The Register report.