UK Hangs Search Engines Out To Dry
Search engine companies are out of luck, at least for the time being; the British government has announced that it will not support “a change to the UK E-commerce Regulations which would give greater legal protection to search engines and other intermediaries.” A European Commission review will decide the matter instead.
The amendment would have essentially “extended the limitation of liability,” to paraphrase a line from OUT-LAW.com. As things stand now, search engines enjoy the prospect of being sued every time content owners feel that they’ve failed to “filter, assess or censor the content that they pass on to users.” (And on a side note, OUT-LAW is more reputable than it sounds – it’s owned by Pinsent Masons, an international law firm.)
The UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) explained its decision in an official statement. “Although there have been good arguments made both for and against the granting of an extension of the limitations on liability to providers of hyperlinks, location tool services and content aggregation services, the DTI, mindful of its obligation for evidence based-regulations, has reached the conclusion that there is currently insufficient evidence to justify any extension to these limitations,” it wrote.
The search engines don’t appear to be too upset by the ruling; actually, they haven’t responded in any way at all. The news is only a few hours old, though, so a reaction may be forthcoming (or they may just politely grin, bear it, and begin to butter up the European Commission).
OUT-LAW’s article concluded with an interesting footnote: “Yahoo! is listed among the respondents in the DTI report. Its main rivals – Google and Microsoft – are not.”