Remember when an Italian court convicted three Google execs over a video uploaded to YouTube that featured a group of school kids bullying an autistic child? David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes(3 out of defendants) were convicted for "failure to comply with the Italian privacy code."
Now in a case that has some similarities to that has also appeared in Italy, involving one of Google's competitors. Greg Sterling points to a story developing in Rome, where Yahoo has been found liable for linking to sites that offer pirated copies of an Iranian film, called "About Elly".
The judge ruled that Yahoo is liable for contributory infringement, copyright infringement facilitation, if Yahoo! doesn't remove search results after it has been notified of privacy violations. Each of the major search engines has had processes in place for years which enable copyright holders to notify the engines of infringement. However, in this court ruling, the search engine becomes a party to the infringement apparently from the moment the notification is submitted.
It remains to be seen how this will play out. Yahoo! and Google can easy argue that any system where results were immediately removed based on a user notification would be subject to abuse. It's easy to imagine competitors submitting false privacy notifications to remove their competition. The question is then if the search engines should also have to under take due diligence to determine the rightful copyright holder for any content on the web, and if so, to what degree of certainty and in what time frame.
Sterling makes an interesting point about how this could complicate Yahoo's relationship with Bing.
When we reported on the YouTube story, we asked if social media sites should be held accountable content submitted by users. If so, this would seem to put the very concept of user-generated content in jeopardy.
Likewise, should search engines be held liable for the content of all the sites that they crawl? That could make the entire web as we know it a very different place. Granted, these decisions are based in Italy, but what if more coutrires followed suit?
And does it end with search? What if you were liable for any link that may have slipped through the comment spam filter on your blog?