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Search Engine Law / 2004-2010

7/2010 - IFPI to Google: Stop linking to The Pirate Bay!

The IFPI sent a DMCA takedown notice to Google demanding that the company not only stop linking to URLs specified in the notice, but to block any link to The Pirate Bay!

"In light of the serious violations of copyright facilitated by The Pirate Bay service, and in accordance with Google's policies (see and we are asking for your immediate assistance in removing from your index, or otherwise disabling access to via your search engine, URLs linking to the website for The Pirate Bay including but not limited to the URLs specified in the attachment to this notice."

The notice also said, that the IFPI is not responsible for detecting infringing material, thus insinuating that this is Google’s job!


7/2010 - Lex Google Street View?

The justice ministers of Germany's 16 states have agreed to support a legal initiative to extend laws protecting Germans' right to privacy to cover use of their own image and that of their homes in online street panoramas. The proposed German law is directly aimed at services like Google Street View and would amend Germany's Federal Data Protection Act to make it illegal to publish databases of street images linked to their geographic coordinates without first blurring faces and car registration plates in the images. It would also make it illegal to store the raw, unblurred image data for more than a month after first publication.


For more information see: Sayer, German Regulators Welcome Street Panorama Privacy Law Draft


7/2010 - Google sued for click fraud

In the first click fraud lawsuit to be filed against Google since 2006, 123 Lock and Key has claimed the search giant charged it for paid-search clicks allegedly made by a competitor.123 Lock says in its court papers that it began advertising with Google October 12, 2009. From October 2009 to March 2010 it received around 15 clicks a day.  Around 80% of the people who clicked through followed up with a phone call, according to the lawsuit. In March 2010, 123 started getting charged for at least 100 to 150 clicks a day. The clicks never converted into phone calls. 123 claims it has provided Google with irrefutable evidence about the click fraud. Google refused to recognize the evidence.


7/2010 - Google hit with several class-action lawsuits over WiFi snooping

In June 2010, Google admitted that the cars it uses to gather Street View pictures have collected private information from unencrypted wireless networks for years, including passwords and extracts of the content of email messages. Google asserts that the collection was inadvertent.  Pablo Chavez, Google's director of public policy, explained in a June 9 letter to Congress that the Street View vehicles gather network information such as wireless addresses broadcast by WiFi routers "to improve the accuracy of the location-based services, such as Google Maps or driving directions."

Van Valin was the first, but not the last to file a class action complaint accusing Google of privacy invasion. Lots and lots of lawyers are trying to jump into the game. At least 7 class action lawsuits have been filed:

The big question in all these lawsuits: How can the plaintiff show that any of its specific data was recorded by Google, and that any harm came to him because of it.

Google filed a motion June 9 to consolidate all U.S. suits and move them to federal court in San Francisco.


5/2010 - Privacy Officials criticize Google

Privacy watchdogs from 10 countries (among them UK, France, Germany, Israel, Canada, New Zealand) have written to Google to protest about the company’s disregard for data protection laws. The letter especially criticizes the way Google Buzz was introduced: "...we are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world’s citizens are being forgotten as Google rolls out new technological applications.  We were disturbed by your recent rollout of the Google Buzz social networking application, which betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms and laws.  Moreover, this was not the first time you have failed to take adequate account of privacy considerations when launching new services. ... In essence, you took Google Mail (Gmail), a private, one-to-one web-based e-mail service, and converted it into a social networking service, raising concern among users that their personal information was being disclosed.  Google automatically assigned users a network of “followers” from among people with whom they corresponded most often on Gmail, without adequately informing Gmail users about how this new service would work or providing sufficient information to permit informed consent decisions. This violated the fundamental principle that individuals should be able to control the use of their personal information. ... It is unacceptable to roll out a product that unilaterally renders personal information public, with the intention of repairing problems later as they arise.  Privacy cannot be sidelined in the rush to introduce new technologies to online audiences around the world..."


And how should Google behave in the future:

"We therefore call on you, like all organisations entrusted with people’s personal information, to incorporate fundamental privacy principles directly into the design of new online services.  That means, at a minimum:

  • collecting and processing only the minimum amount of personal information necessary to achieve the identified purpose of the product or service;

  • providing clear and unambiguous information about how personal information will be used to allow users to provide informed consent;

  • creating privacy-protective default settings;

  • ensuring that privacy control settings are prominent and easy to use;

  • ensuring that all personal data is adequately protected, and

  • giving people simple procedures for deleting their accounts and honouring their requests in a timely way.

In addition to respecting these broad principles, we also expect all organisations to comply with relevant data protection and privacy laws."


5/2010 - The future of Google's image search in Germany

The German Federal Supreme Court has ruled that Google’s image search results  do not infringe copyright law. So displaying thumbnail images is legal! So far we only have the press release. It is not quite clear yet, how the court reached that decision. The main reason for the finding was that the suing artist had not used a simple technical measure (robots.txt) to stop Google from indexing his website. Judging from the press release und contrary to some news reports the court did not find that this amounts to consent to the use of images, but instead came up with another legal twist. But we wont know for sure untill we have the reasoning of the court.


The verdict is also not the end of the discussion about Google Image Search in Germany. There is another case pending in Hamburg, in which a work has been published online by third parties without the artist’s permission. Following the reasoning of the ECJ AdWords decision, the German Federal Supreme Court hinted that Google could only be liable if it was informed of the copyright infringement and did not act.


Also see: Google image search results do not infringe copyright, says German court,; BGH: Google's image search is no copyright infringement, IPKat


2/2010 - 1 US Dollar from Google?

The Third Circuit has reinstated a lawsuit that the Borings filed against Google after a driver for its Street View service took photographs of their home. The court upheld the lower court’s decision tossing most of the claims, but said the court erred on the trespass claim: “The Borings have alleged that Google entered upon their property without permission. If proven, that is a trespass, pure and simple,” the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said. “It was thus improper for the District Court to dismiss the trespass claim for failure to state a claim.” But the Court hinted that Aaron and Christine Boring may only be able to wrest $1 in damages from the search company - unless they can prove that they were actually harmed in the moment the Google driver lingered on their property.

 Boring v. Google Inc., 2010 WL 318281 (3rd Cir. Jan. 28, 2010).


2/2010 - Great Britain: Protection of search engines from liability for copyright infringement

There are discussions in Great Britain about creating a new exemption from copyright law for search engines that create copies of web pages in order to perform their search duties (see Outlaw). The proposed amendment:

"Protection of search engines from liability for copyright infringement


The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is amended as follows.


After section 116F (as inserted by section (Compulsory licensing of recorded music to be made available via the internet)) insert—


Protection of search engines from liability for copyright infringement


Every provider of a publicly accessible website shall be presumed to give a standing and non-exclusive license to providers of search engine services to make a copy of some or all of the content of that website, for the purpose only of providing said search engine services.


The presumption referred to in subsection (1) may be rebutted by explicit evidence that such a licence was not granted.


Such explicit evidence shall be found only in the form of statements in a machine-readable file to be placed on the website and accessible to providers of search engine services.


A provider of search engine services who acts in accordance with this section shall not be liable for any breach of copyright in respect of the actions described in subsection (1).""


2/2010 - Google Tax in France?

The so called Zelnick Report, financed by the French government recommends that big advertising companies like Google and Yahoo be taxed. The tax would kick in anytime an ad is clicked in France regardless of where the company is based. This concept is likely to create  all kinds of legal and technical issues. With the expected revenue of up to $ 28 million France wants to help the struggling music and publishing sector. The Report blames Google for the troubles, arguing the search engine profits from works produced by content providers and doesn’t give anything back.

For more information see:

Sandovai, Greg, France could tax Google to subsidize music, CNet


2/2010 - Germany: Google hit with antitrust lawsuits

Google has been hit with antitrust complaints in Germany from newspaper and magazine publishers (Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) and the Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ)) who want the company to pay for using article snippets in its news service and search results. The publishers also complain about a lack of transparency in the way Google presents its search results.

According to Geek Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann, a spokesman for the German Newspaper Publishers Association, said the Web sites of all German newspapers and magazines together made 100 million euros, or $143 million, in ad revenue, while Google generated 1.2 billion euros from search advertising in Germany. “Google says it brings us traffic, but the problem is that Google earns billions, and we earn nothing,” Mr. Fuhrmann said.

Well, sound like the Rupert Murdoch idea: We have no clue how to innovate our business model, so let’s try to “extort” money out of Google.

Ciao claims its contract with Google unfairly limits its own ability to sell advertising and that it lacks transparency because it doesn't give the company the ability to review if ad revenues paid by AdWords are correct.

Euro-Cities objects to Google’s practice of offering free online mapping services. Letting just anyone embed Google maps in their sites is anti-competitive and killing its own business.


For more information see: Pfanner, Eric An Antitrust Complaint for Google in Germany, New York Times


12/09 - Google Book settlement: The new version
Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers submited a newer version of their settlement (Amended Settlement Agreement, ASA). The Notice of Motion for Preliminary Approval of Amended Settlement Agreement provides a good overview over the modifications. The most important points are:
  • A work is now included in the settlement only if, by January 5, 2009, it has been registered with the United States Copyright Office, or published in Canada, the United Kingdom, or Australia. This addresses concerns expressed e.g. by the French and German government.
  • As in the original Settlement Agreement, the ASA provides that Google may make Display Uses of Books that are Commercially Available only after the Rightsholders affirmatively authorize Google to do so. Although Google is authorized by default to make Display Uses of Books that are not Commercially Available, the Rightsholder can turn those uses off at any time.
    The ASA clarifies the definition of “Commercially Available.” Under the amended definition, a Book is categorized as Commercially Available, and thus will not be displayed without explicit permission, if new copies are available for purchase by consumers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, or Australia from sellers anywhere in the world.
  • Google has agreed to give the Book Rights Registry (the “Registry”) sixty days’ notice after Google classifies a Book as not Commercially Available before it makes any Display Uses of that Book.
  • The parties deleted Section 3.8(a), which provided “Most Favored Nation” status to Google.
  • The proposed Final Judgment and Order of Dismissal provides that the Court’s approval of the settlement does not provide any immunity from the antitrust laws, such as via the Noerr-Pennington Doctrine. This might enable the District Judge and the DOJ to not address the antitrust concerns at this point, but instead wait how the market develops and act later (see Picker, Accessing Competition Issues in the Amended Google Book Search Settlement).
  • The ASA now provides that the Registry’s Charter will ensure that an independent fiduciary will be delegated the responsibility to represent the interests of the Rightsholders of unclaimed Books and Inserts with respect to the exploitation of their works under the ASA.
  • The ASA also changes the provisions relating to the use and disposition of funds generated by a Book whose Rightsholder has not made a claim. Now, the Registry will hold these funds, for the benefit of that Rightsholder, for at least ten years (extended from five years under the original Settlement Agreement). ASA § 6.3(a)(i)(1). Beginning five years after the Effective Date, subject to the approval of the fiduciary, the Registry may use 25% of all funds earned in any one year that have remained unclaimed for at least five years for the sole purpose of locating the Rightsholders of unclaimed works. ASA § 6.2(a)(i)(2).
 The Registry still has not the power to grant a similar license to any other company that might want to make the same kinds of uses that Google will be allowed to make under the settlement.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin granted preliminary approval for the agreement and ordered that groups will have until Jan. 28 to file objections with the court. The fairness hearing will  be held on Feb. 18, 2010.

For more information see:


12/09 - USA: Google's impact on a jury verdict
The South Dakota Supreme Court upheld a trial court's decision that granted a motion for a new trial alleging jury misconduct.
The plaintiff had claimed that the seat belts unlatched during a deadly accident because they were negligently designed. He brought suit against the manufacturer Takata Corporation and its American Subsidiary, TK Holdings, Inc. Prior to the trial the then prospective juror Flynn conducted two quick Google searches, one for Takata, one for TK Holdings. It was revealed to him that Takata is a seat belt and airbag manufacturer and that TK Holdings is the American subsidiary of Takata.
During the trial evidence was presented that Takata had notice its seat belts were defective. At least four drivers claimed their seatbelts had come unbuckled during accidents. Ten other lawsuits had been filed against Takata.
During deliberation, juror Flynn told another juror about his web search. He said he did not find any information on other lawsuits during his search. Three other jurors heard the exchange. The jury finally reached its verdict for the defense.

Following a motion by the plaintiff, the trial court set aside the verdict on finding that one juror had introduced extrinsic evidence into deliberation that prejudiced the jury and swayed the outcome. Extrinsic evidence includes "knowledge relevant to the facts in issue not obtained through the introduction of evidence but acquired prior to trial."

The Supreme court agreed, but did not announce a "hard and fast rule that all such types of internet research by a juror prior to trial without notice to the court and counsel automatically doom a jury's verdict. Rather, as we do in such cases, we give deference to the trial court, which had the distinct advantage of being present throughout the nineteen-day trial."
For more information see: Jensen, Gary, How the Internet is impacting our legal system, KOTA Territory News


12/09 - Switzerland: Lawsuit against Google Street View
Hanspeter Thür, the federal data protection and information commissioner, brought suit against Google over an alleged failure to protect people's privacy on its Street View website. In a statement he said: "Numerous faces and vehicle number plates are not made sufficiently unrecognizable from the point of view of data protection, especially where the persons concerned are shown in sensitive locations, e.g. outside hospitals, prisons or schools... The height from which the camera on top of the Google vehicle films is also problematic. It provides a view over fences, hedges and walls, with the result that people see more on Street View than can been seen by a normal passer-by in the street."
Prior to taking Google to the country's Federal Administrative Court Thür had asked Google to take various measures, but the company had not complied with the request. Thür inter alia demanded that Google develop a better system for blurring faces and licence plate numbers to guarantee privacy protection.


For more information see: Claburn, Thomas, Google Fights Street View Ban in Switzerland, InformationWeek


12/09 - Germany: Criminal Investigation against Google
A criminal investigation has been launched against Google in Hamburg, Germany, because of its YouTube web site. Jens Schippmann, attorney of a group of several German independent labels, publishers and artists has filed claims with the public prosecutor's office. He alleges that Google didn't respond to requests to take down more than 8000 infringing videos and that users would utilize YouTube as a kind of "covert file-sharing platform".
It is still unclear if the ongoing investigation will ever lead to a court case.
For more information see: Spahr, Wolfgang, German Indies, Artists, File against YouTube/Google,


12/09 - Google sues over alleged work-at-home scams

Google is suing Pacific WebWorks over the creation of scam ads ("Use Google to Make 1000s of Dollars!" or "Easy Cash with Google: You Could be Making up to $978 a Day Working from Home!") that have fooled thousands of job hunters into thinking they were applying for work with the internet giant. Because the logo is displayed prominently on the ads, Google claims the unaffiliated websites are misusing its trademark to deceive unsuspecting consumers, many of whom have turned to Google to lodge complaints and ask for refunds. According to Google,  consumers who sign up for these products either receive nothing except fraudulent credit card charges, or DVDs with computer viruses.

See: Fighting fraud online: taking "Google Money" scammers to court, Official Google Blog


10/09 - Author's Guild v. Google - The latest developments
  • After the settlement in the class action lawsuit between Google and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers was announced last October, nearly 400 parties have filed positions on the proposed settlement, with the majority of them opposing the deal. Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft e.g. fear that the deal would give Google too much control over orphan works. Google co-founder Sergey Brin reacted to the critics of the settlement, saying that Google was the only company that has stepped up to scan the millions of out-of-print books and make them available to users. Companies that are complaining are doing nothing for them. (see Google Co-founder Sergey Brin Fires Back at Google Book Search Critics

  • The German Governement has lodged an objection to the deal between Google and the Authors Guild alleging that it would undermine the rights of German authors within the US. In its weekly podcast, German Chancellor Merkel said there are considerable dangers for copyright protection on the Internet. "That’s why we reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection — like Google is doing. The government places a lot of weight on this position on copyrights to protect writers in Germany.

  • The European Commission has called for a "European solution" to book digitisation. But a cooperation with Google might be possible. "Digitisation of books is a task of Herculean proportions which the public sector needs to guide, but where it also needs private-sector support. It is therefore time to recognise that partnerships between public and private bodies can combine the potential of new technologies and private investments with the rich collections of public institutions built up over the centuries. If we are too slow to go digital, Europe's culture could suffer in the future," said a joint statement by Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding and Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. Please note, there is already a digital library of scanned works in Europe, Europeana. See: EU calls for European solution to book digisation, Outlaw.

  • Google has agreed to change the proposed settlement after the Department of Justice said it opposed the deal: "A global disposition of the rights to millions of copyrighted works is typically the kind of policy change implemented through legislation, not through a private judicial settlement. If such a significant (and potentially beneficial) policy change is to be made through the mechanism of a class action settlement (as opposed to legislation), the United States respectfully submits that this Court should undertake a particularly searching analysis to ensure that the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 ('Rule 23') are met and that the settlement is consistent with copyright law and antitrust law. As presently drafted, the Proposed Settlement does not meet the legal standards this Court must apply." But the DOJ also stressed the positive effects of the greement: "The Proposed Settlement has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public. By allowing users to search the text of millions of books at no cost, the Proposed Settlement would open the door to new research opportunities."

  • The fairness hearing was postponed and New York District Judge Denny Chin ordered the parties to present the revamped deal to the court Nov. 9. The final hearing could happen as soon as late December or early January.

    Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said in an interview that “the core agreement is going to stay the same.

 It's my guess that the revised settlement agreement will

  • exclude foreign authors and publishers from the class so that the settlement has no impact on them. This would eliminate many objections raised by the German and French government. Let's be honest, Book Search is a service for people in the US. I think Google can live with excluding works from foreign authors, most of them probably not written in English. Google was criticised for not having translated the settlement agreement. Some authors saw a violation of an international treaty, the RBÜ. All these objections could easily be wiped away (but there would still be one problem: Google has already scanned many books of foreign author's. What would happen with them? Will Google only continue showing snippets, claiming this to be fair use?). 

  • explicitly give the book right's registry the right to licence orphan works to Google's competitors. Google might accept this as long as the registry is not allowed to give competitors a better deal than itself for the next 10 years.

Justia page

8/09 - Search engine liability in the UK and elsewhere

According to a high court judge in London, Google is not the publisher of defamatory comments that appear in its search results.

The case has been brought by London based Metropolitan International Schools (MIS), which runs distance learning courses. The school argued that postings in the forum of the website Digital Trends were defamatory and that Google should be held liable because links to these postings appeared in its search results and the snippets also consisted out of these defamatory comments. MIS also asked the judge for an injunction, preventing the display of search results that suggest it is involved in scam, without the need to provide Google with the URL of the infringing content in the future.

The court did not agree: Google is merely a conduit to information, not a publisher in its own right: "When a snippet is thrown up on the user's screen in response to his search, it points him in the direction of an entry somewhere on the Web that corresponds, to a greater or lesser extent, to the search terms he has typed in. It is for him to access or not, as he chooses. It is fundamentally important to have in mind that the Third Defendant has no role to play in formulating the search terms. Accordingly, it could not prevent the snippet appearing in response to the user's request unless it has taken some positive step in advance. There being no input from the Third Defendant, therefore, on the scenario I have so far posited, it cannot be characterised as a publisher at common law. It has not authorised or caused the snippet to appear on the user's screen in any meaningful sense. It has merely, by the provision of its search service, played the role of a facilitator."

This is the first judicial analysis of search engine liability for defamation under UK law. Although the decision is brilliant for search engines and as a Google spokesman put it "reinforces the principle that search engines are not responsible for content that is published on third-party web sites", an important question remains unanswered:

In the MIS case, Google removed the links to the defamatory comments after notification. The judge hinted that there still is a responsibility of search engines to take down content after receiving a complaint about libellous material. He did not say how fast search engines must act and how effective the take down system must work: "There are some steps that the Third Defendant can take and they have been explored in evidence in the context of what has been described as its "take down" policy. There is a degree of international recognition that the operators of search engines should put in place such a system (which could obviously either be on a voluntary basis or put upon a statutory footing) to take account of legitimate complaints about legally objectionable material. It is by no means easy to arrive at an overall conclusion that is satisfactory from all points of view. In particular, the material may be objectionable under the domestic law of one jurisdiction while being regarded as legitimate in others. In this case, the evidence shows that Google has taken steps to ensure that certain identified URLs are blocked, in the sense that when web-crawling takes place, the content of such URLs will not be displayed in response to Google searches carried out on This has now happened in relation to the "scam" material on many occasions. But I am told that the Third Defendant needs to have specific URLs identified and is not in a position to put in place a more effective block on the specific words complained of without, at the same time, blocking a huge amount of other material which might contain some of the individual words comprising the offending snippet. It may well be that the Third Defendant's "notice and take down" procedure has not operated as rapidly as Mr Browne and his client would wish, but it does not follow as a matter of law that between notification and "take down" the Third Defendant becomes or remains liable as a publisher of the offending material. While efforts are being made to achieve a "take down" in relation a particular URL, it is hardly possible to fix the Third Defendant with liability on the basis of authorisation, approval or acquiescence."

What also makes the decision a must read, is the mentioning of several other lawsuits about search engine liability in other countries, most of them even I had not heard about before:

Spain: decision of Mai 13, 2009, Palomo v. Google

"This was a recent case in the Court of First Instance in Madrid on 13 May 2009: Palomo v Google Inc. The complaint was in relation to search results providing hyperlinks to sites carrying defamatory content. The claim was rejected and the Third Defendant held not liable in law for disseminating third party content. Reference was made to European legislation moving towards the position that there should not be any obligation on Internet intermediaries to supervise such content. Where "actual knowledge" (in the sense defined above) has not been established, the law provides for "exoneration from responsibility" on the part of businesses offering intermediary services."


Laws on search engine liability in Bulgaria and Romania

"Bulgaria enacted an Electronic Commerce Act in December 2006 which provides that an automated search engine service shall not be liable for the contents of data obtained where it has not (i) initiated the transmission of the data, (ii) chosen the data recipient, or (iii) chosen or altered the data obtained. This corresponds to the provisions of the Austrian amendment, to which I have referred above.

Romania has also extended its law to provide express protection for search engine services in Article 15 of Law No 365 of 7 June 2002, dealing with Electronic Commerce. This provides for protection if the search engine service was not aware that the information in question was illegal, and not aware of any facts or circumstances showing that the information could prejudice the rights of a third party. If it is so aware, it may still be protected if it acts rapidly to eliminate the possibilities of access or to block its use. The search engine service is responsible for the information when a public authority has determined that it is illegal. There are similar limitations on liability to those I have identified with reference to the Spanish law."


France, decision from March 19, 2009, SARL Publison System v. Google France

"Another recent example was the French decision (Court of Appeal in Paris, 19 March 2009): SARL Publison System v SARL Google France. The claimant sued over a defamatory "snippet" raised by Google's search engine and a hyperlink to the primary site. It was held that a search engine was not under any duty to assess the lawfulness of the indexed website. To the extent that it involves an indexing robot, and neither creates nor hosts the disputed information, it was said that Google was not under any automatic obligation to carry out monitoring. Furthermore, in view of the considerable volume of information arriving each day on Internet sites, the operator of the search engine was unable to analyse the content made available to users via its indexes."


Netherlands: Decision of April 26, 2007, Jensen v. Google

"There was also a Dutch decision in the District Court of Amsterdam on 26 April 2007: Jensen v Google Netherlands. An attempt was made to obtain an injunction to prevent Google from displaying the search results displayed on a search of the claimant's name (since there were a number of sex websites). The court observed that:

"Google has made it sufficiently clear that it has no (preventive) involvement with or influence over the contents of the links to the websites and with or over the contents of the websites which are automatically obtained as search results after entering of, in the case in hand, the search term Jensen + Urmia + Brigitte."

Attention was drawn to the "technical, automatic and passive nature" of the technical processes involved (i.e. of crawling, index-linking and ranking). Google was not expected to accept responsibility for the outcome of a search instruction or the content of the search results. It is to be noted, however, that the court relied in part upon the lack of knowledge on the part of Google that the information was wrongful."

You can find the high court decision here!


8/09 - Antitrust allegations against Google Italy

Italy's antitrust watchdog (Autorita Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato) is investigating allegations by an Italian association of news publishers (Federazione Italiana Editori Giornali (FIEG)) that Google Italy is discriminating against newspapers that don't want their content linked on Google's news site by also dropping them from its search engine. The members of the association probably should have talked to an search engine optimizer first: They probably used robots.txt to get excluded from Google News. Because search engine spiders, including the Googlebots, don't distinguish between indexing for news and web search, that's the reason why the sites of the newspapers automatically also disappeared from the web search.

See: Debunking The Italian Newspapers’ Antitrust Allegations Against Google, Searchengineland


8/09 - France: Lawsuits over Google Suggest

Google Suggest makes searches more convenient and efficient by auto-completing queries as users type them into the search box. In France, the two companies Direct Energie and CNFDI found out, that when people started searching on their company names, the first suggestion was their company name followed by the word "arnaque," which means "scam."  Google Suggest works by finding the most common searches, so this only means that most of the people searching for these companies did this in connection with the word arnaque. Nethertheless both sued Google.

Direct Energie won. The judge in this case probably did not understand, how Google Suggest works. He complained that the list offered by Google was neither alphabetically nor sorted accordingly to the highest number of results. So he ordered Google to change the results!

CNFDI lost. The judge in this case understood how Google's algorithm works and came to a reasonable decision. He found that the fact that many people were questioning whether CNFDI was a scam was potentially useful information, and thus not libelous by itself. Forcing Google to remove such a suggestion would be too big a burden on free speech.

For more information on these two cases see:  Techdirt, Two Separate Rulings In France Split Over Whether Google's Suggestion Algorithm Can Be Libelous


6/09 - USA: Search Engines ordered to stop misleading mortgage relief ads

The Making Home Affordable Program aims at helping eligible home-owners to refinance or modify their mortgages, so that they can afford to stay in their homes. The official website ( provides information about the program. Starting in April 2009 misleading ads appeared on search engines. When consumers searched for "making home affordable", ads were shown that displayed the web address But when they clicked on the ad, they were not directed to the government web site, but instead to another web site offering loan modification services for a fee. The FTC filed a lawsuit against unknown parties, because the defendants are not identified in the ads. At their request, the District Court for the District of Columbia issued a temporary restraining order that requires four search engine providers (among them Google and Yahoo) to identify those who placed the ads and to refuse ads containing or any other domain name containing .gov.

The documents related to the case can be found at:


6/09 - Netherlands: Webmaster can be held liable for Google snippet

On his web site, Joris van Hoboken mentiones an interesting preliminary judgement of the court in Amsterdam. A snippet in the Google result list suggested that the plaintiff was bankrupt, resulting in telephone calls from several users and a regional newspaper. Usually one would expect a lawsuit against Google, but in this case, the plaintiff went after the web master, who had written a text that was completly legal and tried to hold him responsible for the misleading combination of the sentences by Google. The court agreed, because:

- plaintiff had suffered damages by the snippet

- plaintiff had informed the defendant about the problem and asked him to fix it

- defendant had optimized his web site for search engines

- defendant could easily have changed his web site so that the snippet would also have changed.


What about freedom of expession? If, at all, one can be held resonsible for the snippet, it is Google. The court can't punish a web master, only because he optimizes his web site and has some knowledge about the functioning of search engines. He has no direct influence on the wording of the snippet. Even if he had changed his web site, there is no guarantee that the snippet would have changed too. If he had written "unable to pay his bills" instead of "bankrupt", where would be the advantage in a snippet suggesting the plaintiff was unable to pay his bills. If the defendat had to name the plaintiff in his text (for what reason whatsoether), how can a judge say that this has to be changed because of the conduct of an unrelated company (Google)? The defendant has appealed the decision.


6/09 - Inventor of vibrating toilet seat sues Google
 Johnny I. Henry, an inventor of the vibrating toilet seat (which was featured on the Jay Leno show in November 2008), filed a lawsuit against Google, Inc. and AOL, claiming that search results delivered by Google and hosted by AOL are defamatory.  His photo was pictured on several web sites under the title "N-I-G-G-E-R invents vibrating toilet seat." The complaint says that due to the web sites listed on search engines, he will incurr psychological damage and will probably suffer financial loss once his invention comes to the market

In his pro se complaint, Henry states:

The extreme derogatory nature of these web sites have committed a gross and negligible offense, not only to myself but to our newly elected president and first lady, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama.  I believe that without a shadow of a doubt that this type of racist negative behavior is directed at black people as a whole as well as all good hearted people that mean good throughout this country and world.

Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code exempts service providers like Google from liability for content posted by third parties. The lawsuit will almost certainly be dismissed on that basis.


6/09 - Microsoft files click-fraud complaint

Microsoft has filed a civil complaint in United States District Court in Seattle over click fraud and is seeking at least $750,000 in damages. The complaint alleges, that by engaging in a widespread scheme that generated invalid clicks on links to online ads that were displayed in response to search requests for the game World of Warcraft and auto insurances on Microsoft’s network, defendants disrupted the advertising campaigns of their competitors, obtained increased user traffic for their own ads at a much lower cost than they could have otherwise, and caused substantial damages to Microsoft, which has lost revenues and expended substantial money and resources to remedy the effects of defendant’s conduct. According to Microsoft, the company credited nearly 1,5 million US-dollar to auto insurance and WoW advertisers in direct response to the click fraud.

The complaint gives an example for click fraud: "An advertiser in a particular industry such as auto insurance that has a sponsored site appearing low on the result list could generate repeated clicks on the higher-ranked sponsored sites of its competitors to the point that the competitors’ advertising budgets were exhausted or the performance of their sponsored sites was dramatically lowered. This would cause the higher-ranking sponsored sites to drop off the results page or decrease in the ranking, and the perpetrator’s lower-ranking sponsored site to rise to a higher position in the sponsored site list."

  • Microsoft v. Lam, case number 09-cv-0815, complaint

Also see: The Register, Microsoft sues family over alleged click fraud


4/09 - USA: Suit over AdWords budget limits ends with settlement

A class action law suit against Google will only make lawyers rich and leave advertisers with advertising credit. Want proof? Google has settled a lawsuit filed by advertisers (CLRB Hanson Industries of  Minnesota and Howard Stern of New Jersey) who claimed they were charged for more ads through the AdWords system than they had agreed to pay. The lawsuit, filed in 2005 in Santa Clara Superior Court in California, sought damages, restitution, and injunctive relief to remedy Google’s practice of (1) charging its AdWords advertisers up to 120% of their per day daily budget on any given day (Plaintiffs’ “120% claims”); and (2) charging AdWords customers who paused their campaigns more than their per day Daily Budget times the number of days their campaigns were not paused during the billing period.

Under the terms of the proposed Settlement Agreement, Google has agreed to pay $20,000,000 in a combination of cash and AdWords Credits. Both plaintiffs will receive $20,000; Google agreed to pay their lawyers more than $5 million. Other affected advertisers will get AdWords credits. Google argued that it had only overcharged advertisers to make up for days when it under-delivered ads, but still chose to end the litigation with a settlement. A spokesman said: “Google believes the claims are without merit, but we are pleased to have the litigation behind us and to move forward with our business objectives.”

CLRB Hanson Industries v. Google, 5:05-cv-03649-JW (settlement papers filed March 26, 2009).

For more information see: Goldman, CLRB Hanson v. Google Preliminarily Settles for $20M, Technology & Marketing Law Blog
3/09 - Google wins Street View case in Pennsylvania
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania family against Google. Plaintiffs had alleged invasion of privacy, trespass and unjust enrichment, because Google had published photos of their residence in its Street View feature. The street, in which the home of the plaintiffs is located is marked as "Private Road". Aaron and Christine Boring sued for compensatory and punitive damages, seeking more than 17.000 $.

The judge dismissed the invasion of privacy claim, because he saw no facts that were sufficient to establish that the intrusion could be expected to cause "mental suffering, shame or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities." "While it is easy to imagine that many whose property appears on Google's virtual maps resent the privacy implications, it is hard to believe that any – other than the most exquisitely sensitive – would suffer shame or humiliation", the judge said. He deemed the contended suffering to be less severe because plaintiffs had failed to take readily available measures to protect their own privacy. They could have used a procedure provided by Google to remove the images from Google Street View. Unfortuantely the judge did not tell, why the plaintiffs could be refered to use Google's opt-out system, if the defandant was in fact violating their privacy rights. Seems to me like a circular argument.

As for the other claims, plaintiffs failed to allege a duty of care, that Google could have violated. They also could not support their contention that their property decreased in value.

So, according to the judge, the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under any count.

The couple already aksed the judge to reconsider their dismissed lawsuit. Some excerpts from their motion for reconsideration:

"This case is about every little guy, once again being trampled upon by the big shoe of big business. With nowhere to turn but the American Courts, he is cast away to endure the pinpricks of trespass that bleed our American liberty to death. Whether the trespass is by a foreign king, or the royalty of big business, does not matter. The Borings, such as our American forefathers in millennia past, are entitled to proclaim, 'Google, Don't Tread On Me.'"

"The Borings should not need to post gates and guard dogs, nor should they need to institute batteries of cannons in their driveways. They should have the full power and authority of our American Courts at their defense. But, now, this Court has left the American right of private property helpless, injured, and without remedy."

"This Court tells Google that it is okay to enter onto a person's private property without permission. I would not teach that rule to my child. This Court's ruling makes our private property a Google Slave; our property is no longer our own: it is forced to work for another, against its will, without compensation, for the profit of another. The Federal Court should free slavery, not create it."

"Google's defense is that the grass will stand back up, and there was no gate or guard dog. Or, possibly, that you can pick the fruit off that poison tree by: a) stopping what you are doing; b) going to a computer, if you know how to use one; c) accessing a computer at the cost of doing so; d) accessing the Internet at the cost of doing so; e) researching and becoming familiar with the Google program by going onto their website properties; f) removing the pictures Google acquired while trespassing on your property; and g) not pursuing the happiness you might otherwise be finding. All while they directly and indirectly advertise to you. The more Google injures, the more money they make."


3/09 - Does Google violate antitrust laws by eliminating competition?

Vertical search is an expanding market where a lot of money can be made. The term "vertical search" refers to more or less specialized search engines for specific topics, such as Google News for news or YouTube for videos. There are already more searches conducted at YouTube or eBay than at Yahoo in several countries. TradeComet also operates a specialized search engine for B2B goods and services. To promote its web site TradeComet used the Google AdWords program and was quite successful at the beginning. Officials even meet with Google to further increase the effectiveness of the ad campaigns. In December 2005 Google praised Trade Comet as "site of the week." In May 2006, however, Google raised the minimum bids for keywords on which TradeComet bid. Instead of 5-10 cents, several keywords were only available at a minimum price of 5-10 dollars. These ad rates were way too expensive for the plaintiff to continue promoting itself within Google's online marketing network. So this move strangled plaintiffs primary source of search traffic, resulting in substantial drops in traffic and revenue (about 90%). Google explained to TradeComet that the increase was due to its poor landing page quality.

TradeComet alleges that Google manipulates its auctions to favor certain advertisers like over others. Google establishes minimum pricing thresholds that can differ by advertisers based on criteria , such as "Landing Page Quality", that is exclusively in Google's control. It is impossible to know how Google actually picks the winners and losers of its ad actions. In the eyes of TradeComet officials, Google learned that its search engine was a potential competitor. The lawyers stated that, “Google understood the threat that vertical search engines posed to its business mode.” Hence Google increased the bid rates for advertisement for the company by as much as 10,000 percent.

The suit could be a real danger to Google. So far, no court has said that Google has a monopoly. But the courts only considered an online, not a smaller search advertising market. After the aquisition of DoubleClick Google has strenghtened its position in the online advertising market and remarks by the Federal Trade Commission lead to the conclusion that the relevant market indeed is sponsored search advertising only. And on that market, Google probably has a monopoly share.

Also see: Goldman, Eric, TradeComet Sues Google for Antitrust Violations , Technology & Marketing Law Blog LLC v. Google, Inc., 09 CIV 1400 (SDNY complaint filed Feb. 17, 2009).


2/09 - Google Not Liable for Fraudulent Ads

In the Goddard v. Google case (see Update 57 for details), District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose ruled that the federal Communications Decency Act immunizes Google from liability for allegedly displaying fraudulent ringtone ads created through the AdWords platform. Goddard had claimed that she was billed for a ringtone subscription after entering her cell phone number at a fraudulent web site that she found via an AdWords ad. She sought to hold Google responsible. But the court found that the Federal Communications Act protects Google from any liability for the ads, noting in the written decision, "Providing third parties with neutral tools to create Web content is considered to be squarely within the protections of (the law). Even if a service provider knows that third parties are using such tools to create illegal content, the service's provider's failure to intervene is immunized" so long as it does not encourage or require their users to post actionable information online. Fogel dismissed the case without prejudice, effectively allowing Goddard to file an amended complaint at a later date. Goddard can only win the lawsuit by establishing Google's involvement in creating or developing the AdWords.


Goddard v. Google, Inc., 2008 WL 5245490 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2008).

For more information see Goldman, Eric, Lawsuit Over Google Ads for Mobile Services Dismissed Per 230--Goddard v. Google, Technology & Marketing Law Blog


2/09 - Germany: German Federal Court decisions on AdWords

The German Federal court (BGH) has asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to decide whether or not the use of a trademark as a Google adword is considered use as a trademark.


At the end of January, the BGH has published its opinion on three appeals.


In the first case a company objected against the use of its trademark "bananabay" as a keyword by one of its competitors. Because German trademark law is based on EU law (First Directive 89/104/EEC of the Council, of 21 December 1988, to Approximate the Laws of the Member States Relating to Trade Marks), the BGH could not decide on its own, especially as the ECJ has already been asked to consider the same issue by a French an a Austrían court (see: European Court of Justice will hear Google Adwords lawsuit!). It is expected that it will take the ECJ about two years to decide the issue. But the French case, brought by Louis Vuitton, is already pending for eight months. So my guess is, we can expect the final word on adwords at the beginning of 2009. The decision will be crucial for Google and for the keyword advertising business in Europe.


In the second case before the BGH, the plaintiff, PCB Pool, objected against the use of pcb as adword. But according to the BGH there was no trademark infringement. PCB is an acronym of printed circuit board and the keyword used, descriptive. So the BGH overturned a lower court's ruling.


The finding in the third case could be the most interesting one. Beta Layout had complained about the use of its company name as keyword. The protection of company names does not have its roots in EU law, so the BGH could decide the case. According to the press release he found that there was no trademark violation because internet users are capable of distinguishing between ads and normal search results.


12/08 - Argentina: Google and Yahoo locked in legal battle with celebrities

Martin Leguizamon, 48, a Buenos Aires attorney, has taken on the local versions of Yahoo und Google on behalf of many of Argentina's best-known actors, models, sports personalities and judges. Initially he represented a group of about 70 fashion models and asked the search engines to block all search results with their names with the intent of blocking pornographic web sites that used the models' pictures. He succeeded in getting restraining orders. Yahoo and Google were ordered to censor search results from their Argentine sites for information about the plaintiffs. Then other public figures - including Maradona and the high-profile judge María Servini de Cubría - have sought out the same lawyer to successfully block search results about them as well. In some cases, the restraining orders require Yahoo and Google to censor results for certain URLs or keywords. In other instances they call for broad restrictions such as censorship of defamatory or scandalous material.

Yahoo first tried to satisfy the orders by blocking content on a site-by-site basis. But as the scope of the orders grew, the company couldn't satisfy the courts. The fines pilled up, and Yahoo has resorted to blocking almost all sites involving the celebrities in question. The only exceptions are hyperlinks to major news media sites. If a user enters the name Maradona e.g., he will see a disclaimer in Spanish stating: "Due to a court order requested by private parties, we find ourselves obliged to temporarily suspend all or some of the results related to this search."

So far, Google Argentina isn't filtering as extensively as Yahoo! and hopes for successful appeals and the legislator to change the law.

Also see: Argentine search engines told to block famous names, Outlaw


12/08 - Germany: Thumbnail decision revisited

I already mentioned in the last update that the German photographer Michael Bernhard and the artist Thomas Horn have won lawsuits against Google for displaying thumbnails images of their works in picture search results.

I now have the court decision (German):

According to the Court Google infringes the making available right of the copyright owner. The court examines several exceptions to the copyright exclusivity, e.g. the right of citation, but finds that no exception applies.

Earlier court decisions on thumbnails in Germany discussed the possibility of an implied consent by the copyright holder. But this case was different: The picture, which Google used to create the thumbnail, had not been put on the web by the copyright owner and he had also not allowed the reproduction by a third party. So there was no basis for an implied consent.


The court then stressed the importance of search engines for the internet (although it said that picture search is not as important as web search), but it also said that it was not up to the court to invent new copyright exceptions. It saw no possibility to say that Google's actions are legal.


12/08 - Spain: Google Cache is legal (the

The plaintiff accused Google of copyright infringement by reproducing snippets from his web site in the results page and by making available cached copies of his web site.

As to the snippets, the court (Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Barcelona (Section 15), of 17 September 17, 2008) concluded that they are too short and thus not infringing.

As to the cached copies the court examined the exceptions to the copyright holder's exclusivity. The court doubted that the exception of temporary reproduction (Art. 31 I of the Ley de Propiedad Intelectual / Art. 5 I of the EU Copyright Directive) applies, because the copies Google uses for its service exist for a longer time, even if the original web site has been removed or modified. But the court did not make a final decision on this subject. Instead it looked at the three step test (See e.g. Article 13 of TRIPs. It reads: "Members shall confine limitations and exceptions to exclusive rights to certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder.") and the US fair use doctrine and found that these principles should also guide the interpretation of the scope of the protection of intellectual property rights in Spain in order to avoid absurd overextensions of the protection of copyright owners. The court than found that the Google Cache is a socially tolerated use and does not do any harm to the copyright holder. But Google has to comply with some basic requirements. Here the court refered to the caching safe harbor in Art. 13 of the E-Commerce Directive, (The caching safe harbor does not apply to the Google cache, but the court assumed that these requirements are also the limits that a cache provider must observe in order to respect the integrity of the work and the author’s right of making available the work). So there is no copyright infringement on the condition that

(a) the provider does not modify the information;

(b) the provider complies with conditions on access to the information;

(c) the provider complies with rules regarding the updating of the information, specified in a manner widely recognised and used by industry;

(d) the provider does not interfere with the lawful use of technology, widely recognised and used by industry, to obtain data on the use of the information; and

(e) the provider acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information it has stored upon obtaining actual knowledge of the fact that the information at the initial source of the transmission has been removed from the network, or access to it has been disabled, or that a court or an administrative authority has ordered such removal or disablement.

Quite an interesting ruling. But I doubt that it will get much approval. While the Hamburg court in the thumbnail decision said that it is not the task of a court to invent new exceptions to the copyright holder's exclusivity, the Spanish appeal court did just that by combining fair use principles and requirements of the E-Commerce-Directive.


12/08 USA: Google Book Search Settlement

Google and The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers said that they have settled a book scanning lawsuit for $125 million. The deal, which still needs approval from a federal court in New York, would clear the way for the company to provide easier online access to millions of copyrighted books.

Google began scanning and uploading books four years ago. However, unlike other countries where it only scanned books fallen out of copyright, in the USA it scanned books that were still copyright protected and made them available through its book search program - enraging publishers and authors. Three years ago, the Authors Guild and others filed a class action lawsuit against Google Book Search. As part of the agreement Google will compensate them at a minimum of $60 per work, costing it up to $90m of the $125m deal.


With this agreement, in-copyright, out-of-print books will now be available for readers in the U.S. to search, preview and buy online — something that was simply unavailable to date. Most of these books are difficult, if not impossible, to find. They are not sold through bookstores or held on most library shelves, yet they make up the vast majority of books in existence. Today, Google only shows snippets of text from the books where we don’t have copyright holder permission. This agreement enables people to preview up to 20% of the book.

What makes this settlement so powerful is that in addition to being able to find and preview books more easily, users will also be able to read them. And when people read them, authors and publishers of in-copyright works will be compensated. If a reader in the U.S. finds an in-copyright book through Google Book Search, he or she will be able to pay to see the entire book online. Also, academic, library, corporate and government organizations will be able to purchase institutional subscriptions to make these books available to their members. For out-of-print books that in most cases do not have a commercial market, this opens a new revenue opportunity that didn’t exist before.

For details of the agreement see the Google Press Release and The End of Snippet View: Google Settles Lawsuit with Book Publishers, New York Times. For German speaking readers see my post: Google Buchsuche - Überblick und erste Analyse des Vergleichs.

The agreement (141-page / 500KB PDF)


10/08 - Parker v. Yahoo, Microsoft 


Parker claims that by making cached copies of his websites available to their users, both Yahoo and Microsoft republish his works in their entirety without his permission. Accordingly, Parker has brought several claims against both defendants, including direct copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement. Sound familiar?  In Field v. Google, Inc., the United States District Court for the District of Nevada considered a case that is strikingly similar to the present one: Field, an author of copyrighted works published online at his website, sued Google in copyright for creating and storing cached versions of his works as they appeared on his website. Field was also aware that he could have opted out of being included in Google's searches by including "no-archive" HTML "meta-tags" on his web page. Nonetheless, he brought a claim of direct copyright infringement against Google for violating his exclusive right to reproduce and distribute copies of his works. Among other defenses, Google asserted that the plaintiff had impliedly licensed Google to reproduce his work because he had consciously chosen not to include the no-archive meta-tag on the pages of his website. The court concluded that Google had sufficiently established the defense of implied license.

The district court in Parker followed this reasoning. From Parker's silence and lack of earlier objection, the defendants could properly infer that Parker knew of and encouraged the search engines' activity, and, as did the defendants in Field, they could reasonably interpret Parker's conduct to be a grant of a license for that use. 

But in the end the Court did not dismiss the direct copyright infringement claim, because the defandants allegedly have continued to display Parker's works after the commencement of the lawsuit. This might constitute direct infringement, because the licence might have been revoked.

Parker v. Yahoo!, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74512 (E.D. Pa. Sep. 26, 2008)


10/088 - Google Street View - Legal Problems in Germany? 


In the last months Google has been taking photographs for its controversial Street View feature in Germany. Several officials at both state and federal level have issues with the project and a small town council leader Reinhold Harwart "succeeded" in stopping Google in the northwestern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The town of Molfsee (pop. 5000) announced that Google needed a permit to take pictures. Laws related to traffic and commercial activities in public spaces would apply. "And when they ask for a permit, we will say no", Hawart says. Although the cited laws are pretty much the same throughout Germany, Google announced to stop taking pictures in Schleswig-Holstein only. Google still argues that streets are public property and that no permit is necessary and will probably continue to talk to officials.

Google is expected to start Street View in Germany very soon. Faces of people and license plate numbers caught in the images will be blurred. The Street View button is already enabled in Germany for testing!

For more information see: The Cleveland Leader, German Town Attempting to Block Google Street View


10/08 - Googles v. Google


Steven Silvers, is the creator of animated characters known as "Googles," described as "lovable, friendly four-eyed alien creatures that live on the planet of Goo" that are used to "communicate to children in non-violent themes social lessons, conceptual awareness and educational values, and give children of today, visions of tomorrow." Silvers alleges that he developed the Googles concept in the late 1970s, and began using the name as early as the mid-1980s. In 1997, Silvers obtained the Internet domain name, "".

Stelor, now the legal owner of the Googles mark, alleges that the Google search engine (along with its related goods and services) "has become so well-known... that it now overwhelms the public recognition of the "Googles' trademark, domain name, and Website, and is preventing Stelor from flourishing on the Web or entering new markets..." It further claims that "Google's infringing use of the name 'Google,' which is substantially identical to Silvers' 'Googles' mark, has caused, and will continue to cause, 'reverse confusion' in that the consuming public will now falsely believe that Stelor's goods and services, '' domain name, and Website, are connected, affiliated, associated, sponsored, endorsed or approved by Google, and that Google is the source of origin of the 'Googles' concept, books, music, '' domain name, Website, merchandise, and related goods and services..." Stelor now pursues the four-count amended complaint, originally filed by Silvers against Google, alleging trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1114, unfair competition under 15 U.S.C. §1125(a), unfair competition under Florida law, and "cancellation of Defendant's registration." 


In September 2008 the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied Stelor Productions Inc.'s motion to compel defendan's principals, Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page for deposition. Stelor had claimed that only Page and Brin have knowledge of (1) the background and evidence related to the first commercial use of the Google mark, (2) the Google, Inc. applications for trademark registrations, and (3) the statements made by the Google principals under oath in support of those applications. Stelor now must first take the deposition of Rose Hagan, Google's Rule 30(b)(6) representative.


For court documents see: Stelor Productions, Inc. v. Ooogles n Googles et al, Justia


10/08 - Google Analytics illegal in Germany?

According to the district court of Munich website operators are allowed to store the IP adresses of their visitors without violating data protection laws (Outlaw, German court says IP addresses in server logs are not personal data). This is the latest opinion in the ongoing debate throughout the EU, whether IP adresses count as personal data or not. Several privacy activists, the district court of Berlin and the EU Article 29 Working Party (Opinion 4/2007 on the concept of personal data) claim they are; the consequence would be that web site statistic programms, including Google Analytics, are illegal if they store IP adresses.


Thilo Weichert, Privacy official in Schleswig-Holstein already contacted several webmasters to inform them about the illegality of their use of Google Analytics. So far he does not warrant fines (ULD: Google Analytics - Verstoß gegen das TMG?).


10/08 - UK: Christian Institute / Google case settled out of court

In March, Google refused an ad from the Christian Institute, arguing it did not allow the advertising of websites with "abortion and religion-related content". The ad in question stated: "UK Abortion law - Key views and news on abortion law from the Christian Institute -". The Institute sued Google in April, saying that its decision violated the Equality Act of 2006 which prohibits discrimination based on religion in providing goods or services.

Instead of fighting the case, Google settled out-of-court and agreed to revise its policy so that religious entitities are now allowed to launch advertising campaigns on abortion.

For more information see: New York Times, Google in Shift on ‘Abortion’ as Keyword


8/08 - Comments on FTC Behavorial Ad Principles

In December 2007, the Federal Trade Commission released a paper titled "Online Behvioral Advertisement: Moving the Discussion Forward to Possible Self-Regulatory Principles" (See: Self-Regulatory Principles on Behavioral Advertising). It included four proposed principles:

  • transparency and consumer control

  • reasonable security and data retention

  • consent for changes to existing privacy policies

  • consent to using sensitive data for behavioral advertising.

The FTC called for comments and many companies and organisations sent statements (they can be found at The commentators agreed that the principles were a good start for the discussion, but also critized several aspects. Google said the principles are overly burdensome and too broadly defined.

As in Europe, Google sticks to its opinion that the IP adress is not a personally identifying information. The paper does not differentiate between personally identifying information and not personally identifying information.This would be a big problem: Principle 3 e.g. requires affirmative express consent for material changes to an online company's privacy policy. Google has a lot of unauthenticated users. How should they be asked for their consent?

Principle 4 would either require the affirmative consent, or simply prohibit, collection of sensitive personal data for behavioral advertising. Google criticises that "sensitive data" is not defined: ”As a result, Principle 4 would not allow Google to collect a search query for “cancer treatment” or “alcoholics anonymous” from unauthenticated users because we do not have any relationship with an unauthenticated user and we have no way to obtain that user’s consent – affirmative and express or otherwise – prior to collecting the search query."


8/08 - Fraudulent Ad Charges - Almeida v. Google

Google offers advertisers two types of ads. The first is a search ad. When an user uses Google to search for a specific term, Google will display the ads of advertisers who have bid for those particular keywords. The second type of ad is contextual based ads. These ads are shown on third party web sites that have content that matches the keywords bid on by the advertiser. When signing up, the advertiser has to select the maximum daily budget and the maximum CPC bid. The advertiser has two choices "Default CPC bid" and the "CPC content bid". Next to the "CPC content bid" input is the word "optional". According to a lawsuit brought by Almeida advertisers who left the optional content bid section of the form blank believed they were opting out of content advertisement. This expectation was supported by the fact that users were not given the option of opting out of content bids during the advertising campaign creation process. So Almeida claims that Google fraudulently concealed the fact that advertisers would be charged for the third-party content ads even if they did not complete the portion of the sign-up form. He alleges that Google's actions constitute an unfair or deceptive practice within the meaning of California Business and Professions Code sections 172000 et seq.

Maybe the plaintiff should have had a look at the AdWords Help Center? Check out


8/08 - Sex Selection Ads in India

The advertisement of products and techniques to aid in the selection of an unborn child's sex is an offense under India's "The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act". But Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft still serve ads that claim to help in the selection of a child's sex. Following a complaint, India's Supreme Court asked the search engines to respond to the charges. 

For more information see:


8/08 - Information Commissioner: Street View no violation of privacy laws in Great Britain?

Google is expected to launch its controversial Street View feature in Great Britain later this year. After several complaints from citizens and due to opposition from privacy advocates, the Information Commissioner's Office took a closer look at the service and finally gave it his blessing: "We are satisfied that Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including the blurring of vehicle registration marks and the faces of anyone included in Street View images. Although it is possible that in certain limited circumstances an image may allow identification of an individual, it is clear that Google are keen to capture images of streets and not individuals."

Individuals can also complain about identifiable pictures and have them removed.

Google Cars have been spotted in several European countries in the last few months including Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain.

Also see:


8/08 - Purchased Ads on parked domains

A class-action lawsuit filed in May 2006 against Yahoo! Inc. accused the company of engaging in "syndication fraud" against advertisers who pay Yahoo to display their ads on search results and on the Web sites of partner pages. The suit claims that Yahoo also displayed the ads via spyware and adware products and on so-called "typosquatter" web sites that capitalize on misspellings of popular trademarks or company names.

For more information see the Technology & Marketing Law Blog: Yahoo "Syndication Fraud" Lawsuits--Crafts by Veronica v. Yahoo and Draucker Development v. Yahoo / Search Engine Advertiser Litigation Updates

Now, Google has also been hit with a lawsuit for the alleged sale of "low quality" ads on parked domains and error pages. The complaint alleges  that Google is guilty of "unjust enrichment" by promising high-quality ad placements and then serving a substantial portion of ads on low-quality sites. Plaintiff Levitte claims that 16,3 % of all the clicks in his campaign came from such sites, but not a single one of those clicks led to a conversion. The suit seeks class-action status for everyone in the US with an AdWords account over the last four years.

One week later, online retailer RK West filed a similiar lawsuit against Google. The complaint alleges that the company purchased ads without realizing they would appear on parked domains.

See Levitte v. Google (complaint and Justia page) and RK West v. Google (complaint and Justia page).


6/08 Belgium - Copiepresse v. Google - The copyright battle continues

Back in April 2006 the Belgian newspaper group Copiepresse filed a lawsuit against Google for re-printing parts of their articles and headlines on Google News and caching their web pages. Google lost in 2007, but appealed the decision. For over a year, Google and Copiepresse went into negotiations and tried to find a solution, but it now seems those talks have broken down. Copiepresse wants Google to pay 4 million Euro immediately, and maybe more later. Professor Alain Berenboom of the Free University of Brussels estimates that the losses attributable to Google's activities were between € 32.8 million and € 49.2 million for a single year! I very much doubt that the newspapers really suffered such a loss. Quite on the contrary. Without Google, they probably would have had less visitors and less income from ads. To win the case, Copiepresse has to show that the headlines and extracts are copyright procted and with regard to the caching issue, that Google's behavior amounts to copyright infringement (which is very likely in European countries, because of the lack of a "fair use" defence).

The court case will resume on September 18 to decide if the infringements are valid and whether the damages payment is reasonable.

For more information see: Belgian group seeks up to $77.2 mln from Google, Reuters


6/08 - Citysearch facees click fraud lawsuit

Tom Lambotte is suing, because the advertising company allegedly charged him improperly for "fraudulent clicks". In his view, Cityseach failed to take any significant measures to track or prevent click fraud and fails to adequately warn its existing and potential customers about the existence and prevalance of click fraud. The incident described in the complaint seems to be of minor importance. Between December 11, 2007 and December 25, 2007 Lambotte received a total of nine clicks on his ads, between December 26, 2007 and the end of December his ad received between 12 to 16 porported clicks per day. If this sudden increase of clicks is the result of click fraud, remains to be seen. Even if this is the case, the damage the plaintiff might have suffered, might not be higher than 50 US-Dollars...

Lambotte v. IAC/InterActiveCorp. (Cal. Superior Ct. complaint dated May 27, 2008)

For more information see:


6/08 - Google sued over "fraudulent" AdWords (Goddard v. Google)

Jenna Goddard claims she was injured when she provided her cell phone number to an allegedly fraudulent mobile subscription service website and was charged for unwanted mobile content services in form of premium text messages. But instead of suing the subscription service, she went after Google and sued the company. Why? Goddard says that she performed a Google search for "ringtone" and an ad pointed her to the scammy ringtone provider.

In its Content policy Google only allows a ad for a mobile subscription service, if it accurately discloses a host of higly relevant information to consumers, such as the service's price, subscription period and cancellation procedures (for details see Goddard claims that Google is aware that mobile subscription services frequently do not disclose these terms, but driven by financial motivations does not live up to its contractual obligations not to run ads for these companies. "Fortunately for deceptive mobile subscription services, Google has systematically declined to live up to its contractual obligations, irrespective of its public pronouncements to do so, opting instead to line its own pockets through an 'anything goes' approach to the advertising and sale of mobile content," reads the complaint.

Goddard hopes to have the lawsuit elevated to class status.

Goddard v. Google, Inc., Case No. 108CV111658 (Cal. Super. Ct. complaint dated April 30, 2008). Google's notice of removal to federal court C08 02738 (N.D. Cal. removal notice dated May 30, 2008).

For more information see: Goldman, Eric, Google Sued for Running Ads for "Fraudulent Mobile Subscription Services"--Goddard v. Google, Technology & Marketing Law Blog


4/08 - Important thumbnail decision in Germany

So far, German courts were split on the question, if copyright law allows the creation and display of thumbnail images by picture search engines.

There have been two major decisions, one by the District Court of Hamburg (Case No. 308 O 449/03, full text available at: and the second by the District Court of Erfurt (Case No.: 3 O 1108/05, full text available at:

 The District Court of Hamburg ruled against Google's German news service when it found that thumbnail images, that were displayed beside excerpts from various news stories, were protected under German copyright law and could not be reproduced without permission.

 The District Court of Erfurt argued that webmasters must brace themselves for other users to link to their works. The court stressed the fact that the thumbnails cannot be enhanced into high quality images and that the depiction of thumbnails is beneficial to the copyright holder, because visual search engines help users to locate them on the internet. Page owners had one easy way to prevent their pictures from appearing as thumbnails in search engine results, the court wrote. They can restrict access to the works on their site, e.g. by the use of a robots.txt file.

The plaintiff appealed the decision and the Thuringian Higher Regional Court (decision of February 27, 2008, Case No. 2 U 319/07 - full text in German) did not follow the reasoning of the District Court.

In accordance with prior cases the court found that the creation and display of thumbnail images is not allowed under the exemptions granted by the German Copyright Act. Google also failed to convince the court that the "implied consent" defense applies. In the eyes of the judges, the upload of a work on a web site is not enough to find that the copyright owner agrees to all search engine uses. So thumbnails used by picture search engines violate the German Copyright Act (I don't agree with this result, please see my article Green light for search engines to use thumbnail images?).

But then the court came up with a solution to dismiss the lawsuit. The plaintiff was engaged in search engine optimization. Under these circumstances, the court found that the plaintiff had attracted crawlers and was estopped from raising claims against search engines!

I don't think that it is a good idea to assume that the plaintiff abused her legal rights:

  • The plaintiff had used metatags (the decision only speaks of the keyword metatag - that is useless, if you want to optimize your pages for Google, but the plaintiff might have also used other metatags). Metatags don't "attract" crawlers. They are a way of telling search engines which keywords are relevant for a web site, but they don't influence how often a web page is visited. Metatags are used to increase the visibility of a web site within the (web) search results.

  • The court did not offer a solution what the plaintiff should have done, if she wanted her web site to appear in the web search results, but not in the picture search results. If she had optimized the pictures (which is very difficult to prove), than the reasoning of the court would have been correct, but only then.

  • In my view, it would have been better to consider the search engine optimization (SEO) under the aspect of "implied consent". The use of the metatags shows that the copyright owner wanted his works to be found. So it would be consequent to assume, he impliedly consents to the necessary copyright uses by search engines.

For a more in depth analysis, see the comment in my German Links & Law Blog 


4/08 - Abortion and religion-related content is inappropriate, Google says

Abortion and religion-related content is inappropriate, Google says

Ads for non-religious sites with views on abortion? No problem! Adverts for pornographic sites? Sure! But abortion and religion related content? No way! So Google refused to run a pro-life ad for The Christian Institute's website,, ("UK abortion law - news and views on abortion from the Christian Institute"), because "abortion and religion-related content" is "inappropriate content" according to Google's policy.

Lawyers for the Institute say this is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2006. They demand that Google change its policy or face legal action. 


4/08 - German Jewish Group Sues Google over YouTube
The Central Council of Jews in Germany filed a temporary injunction March 20, 2008, against Google in Hamburg District Court. The Jewish group demands that Google pull hate videos from its YouTube subsidiary. Among the offending videos was one in which a photo of the late president of the Central Council, Paul Spiegel, was burned against a background of swastikas. According to Business Week, Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews explained the move: "The radical right-wing scene is using YouTube, massively, as a platform. We are accusing Google, with its YouTube video platform subsidiary of being an accomplice to inciting racial hatred and discrimination."


4/08 - First Google street view lawsuit in the USA: Boring v. Google

Google allegedly took pictures from what was labeled as “private property” for its Street View Feature. So, Aaron and Christine Boring filed suit in Allegheny County court on April 2, 2008. They are demanding $25,000 to make up for the "mental suffering" and the diminished value of their home. Google claims that this lawsuit is pointless since anyone can ask them to have pictures removed without legal action. You can watch some of the pictures of the property and the complaint here.

Also read: Mr. and Mrs. Boring sue Google over Street View pics - "No one will compromise our privacy but us", The Register


4/08 - Article 29 Data Protection Working Party Report: Opinion on data protection issues related to search engines

A report by the European Union's privacy panel, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, demands that search engines follow EU privacy regulations, even when the services are headquartered outside the European Union. They should delete personal data held about their users within six months.

Key findings of the report:

  • The Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) generally applies to the processing of personal data by search engines, even when their headquarters are outside of the EEA.

  • Search engines may only process personal data for legitimate purposes and the amount of data has to be relevant and not excessive in respect of the various purposes to be achieved.

  • In view of the initial explanations given by search engine providers on the possible purposes for collecting personal data (e.g. Service improvements, system security, fraud prevention, personalised advertising), the Working Party does not see a basis for a retention period beyond 6 months.... In case search engine providers retain personal data longer than 6 months, they will have to demonstrate comprehensively that it is strictly necessary for the service.... If there is no legitimate ground for processing, or for use beyond the well-specified legitimate purposes, search engine providers must delete personal data. Instead of deletion, search engines may also anonymise data, but such anonymisation must be completely irreversible for the Data Protection Directive to no longer apply.

  • The Working Party finds that the correlation of personal data across services and platforms for authenticated users can only be legitimately done based on consent, after the users have been adequately informed.

  • Users of search engine services have the right to access, inspect and correct if necessary, according to Article 12 of the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC), all their personal data, including their profiles and search history.

  • Cross-correlation of data originating from different services belonging to the search engine provider may only be performed if consent has been granted by the user for that specific service.


3/08 - EU Commission Clears Google's DoubleClick Bid

On March 11, 2008, European regulators cleared Google's proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick. The EU Commission’s in-depth investigation, opened in November 2007, "concluded that the transaction would be unlikely to have harmful effects on consumers, either in ad serving or in intermediation in online advertising markets. The Commission has therefore concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition within the European Economic Area (EEA) or a significant part of it." The Commission did not believe that the merged entity would have the ability to engage in strategies aimed at marginalising Google's competitors, mainly because of the presence of credible ad serving alternatives to which customers can switch, in particular companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL.

EU Commission Press Release


12/07 - Spain: Complaints over mixing search results and ads

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accuses Google of inadequately distinguishing between its sponsored links and the normal "organic" search results (see Update 51). The case will be heard in the Federal Court June 23, 2008.

Same problem in Spain: The Federation of Consumers in Action (FACUA) filed complaints with several government ministries (the National Consumer Institute, the Spanish Office of Patents and Trademarks, the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs ministry of the region of Madrid) against Yahoo and Google claiming that the ads aren't adequately distinguishable from the search results. The group also criticizes the use of trademark protected terms as keywords. According to the group, one third of telecommunications companies, two thirds of travel agencies and 20 percent of the banking entities studied used the names of their competitors to advertise on Google.

  • November 19, 2007: Australia sets date for Google keyword case, ZDNet:
    "The Australian Federal Court has set a hearing date for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's allegations against Google of misleading and deceptive conduct."

12/07 - Austrian study: Google is creating dangerous monopolies and has to be stopped!

According to an Austrian university study (187-pages PDF) Google is creating unacceptable monopolies that will allow it to control information flows and invade privacy.

Two of the conclusions of the study are:

  • "Google can use its almost universal knowledge of what is happening in the world to play the stock market without risk: in certain areas Google KNOWS what will happen, and does not have to rely on educated guesses as other players in stock market have to. This is endangering trading on markets: by game theory, trading is based on the fact that nobody has complete information (i.e. will win sometimes, but also loose sometimes). Any entity that never looses rattles the basic foundations of stock exchanges!"

  • "Google’s open aim is to “know everything there is to know on Earth”. It cannot be tolerated that a private company has that much power: it can extort, control, and dominate the world at will."

According to, a Google spokesman said in a statement: "These allegations are premised on numerous inaccuracies, conspiracy theories and fundamental misunderstandings about Google's products and services. They're completely without foundation and, frankly, a little strange.''


11/07 - Google Street View - Privacy Concerns in Canada
On May 25, 2007, Google released Street View, a new feature of Google Maps which provides 360° panoramic street-level views of various U.S. cities. On this date, the feature only included five cities, but has since expanded to fifteen, with plans for more U.S. and Canadian cities in the future. The application raises privacy concerns because of its close-up views of city streets and recognisable shots of people. Images showing people beeing arrested, sunbathing and urinating in the public, have been found by users (see e.g. 10 bizarre sights in Google Street View).

The new feature probably meets U.S. privacy standards because the U.S. has a long tradition of treating public spaces as truly public. But the new feature might not be legal in countries with stricter privacy laws. Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA) e.g. requires private companies to obtain consent of consumers to collect, use or disclosure their personal information. In order to comply with Canadian laws, Google is willing to blur identifiable faces and license plates. But according to Margaret Ann Wilkinson, a professor of law and information and media studies at the University of Western Ontario, this might not be enough: "If an individual can be readily identified by his or her body, clothing or location, it might still be considered a violation."

The Google cam-cars have already been spotted in London suggesting that Street View will be extended to Europe. 


11/07 - AdWord advertising on copyright-infringing lyric websites
Lawyers representing the NMPA (National Music Publishers' Association), the leading trade association representing U.S. music publishers, have met with Google to discuss the problem of AdWord advertising on copyright-infringing lyric websites. They want to stop copyright infringers from making money. According to US Today, Google said in a statement: "We take copyrights very seriously. In accordance with our policy, we disable ads on websites in our content network when we are made aware that they appear next to copyrighted content. Copyright holders who find their copyrighted material appearing next to Google ads can find more information about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down requests on our AdSense website. Hundreds of thousands of website publishers responsibly abide by our policies and we're committed to preventing those who don't from using our program."


8/07 - Defamation Lawsuit: Gene Phillips v. Google
Gene Philips, a Dallas businessman found some allegedly false, misleading and defamatory statements about him on the internet e.g. a Dallas Business Journal article, which implies that Philips knowingly participated in organzied crime activities (he was found not guilty of all the charges brought against him). And guess, who he is suing. Correct answer is Google! He claims that by providing a link to the articles, Google publishes the false statements...

 Search engine should be protected by 47 USC 230 against such claims and I can see no way, how the plaintiff can get around this defense.

Phillips v. Google Inc., 3:2007-cv-01236 (N.D. Tex. complaint filed June 4, 2007; removed from state court July 11, 2007)


8/07 - Google looses Gmail trademark case in Germany ... again!

In 2005, Google has changed the name of its German email service to "Google Mail", because Daniel Giersch, who allegedly owns the rights to "G-Mail" in Germany and started using the mark for his own physical mail service in 2000, won at both the preliminary and final stages of the litigation before the district court in Hamburg. But Google did appeal the decision and now has lost again (Az 5 U 87/06). This could be the end of this long-running case in Germany over the "Gmail" trade mark, because the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in Hamburg denied Google leave to appeal to the Germany's Federal Court. Google's last chance is to file for non-admission of the ruling at the Federal Court to prevent the ruling from taking effect.

According to Information Week Google said in an e-mailed statement: "Google owns the 'Gmail' trademark in over 60 countries worldwide and we have used it ever since we launched the service in 2004. While we regret the German court's decision, it will in no way affect our ability to continue to provide Web e-mail to our users in Germany. Our German users will continue to use 'Google Mail' and enjoy the same experience as users of Gmail worldwide."

In addition to the lawsuit in Germany, Google is also taking action against Giersch in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.
  • July 5, 2007: Williams, Chris, German courts demand no more Gmail squabbling, The Register:
    " German courts have banned Google from further attempts to wrestle the rights to the "Gmail" trademark away from a businessman who registered the name several years before it launched a webmail service"


8/07 - Google may have to reveal AdWord secrets
In 2002,  Sport Court sued Rhino for trademark infringement, and a year later, Rhino agreed to an injunction restricting it from using the "Sport Court" trademark "on or in connection with the Internet. Then, in early May 2007, Sport Court accused Rhino of violating the injunction, claiming that the company had purchased the "sport court" keyword phrase on Google AdWords.

But Rhino had merely purchased the "broad match" terms "court" and "basketball court," not the specific term "sport court." So the court rejected plaintiff's claim, but he has now issued a subpoena to Google, requesting information on "all purchases of 'sport court' as a keyword," "associated cost per click calculations," "estimated ad positions for the keyword," and "search volume trends for the keyword." That includes information about Sport Court's AdWords account as well as the accounts of other businesses.

Google has sent out a warning letter to an undisclosed number of its advertisers to inform them of the civil subpoena it received, and given them until July 19th to respond. If those advertisers do not formally object, Google may give over their ad data to legal authorities. The letter was posted on the Technology and Marketing Law Blog.

The subpoena


6/07 - YouTube sued again!
The Football Association Premier League Ltd. and publisher Bourne Co. sued YouTube in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, saying the online video pioneer was engaging in widespread copyright infringement to bring traffic to the site. The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages and YouTube's profits from the material in question. It also sought class action status.

This lawsuit comes less than two months after Viacom sued YouTube and Google for copyright infringement of their television programming, and six months after Google purchased the YouTube video sharing web site.

The Football Association Premier League Ltd v. YouTube, Inc., 1:07-cv-03582-UA (SDNY complaint filed May 4, 2007)

A mandolin player who recorded with The Grateful Dead also filed a copyright infringement lawsuit May 10 in federal court in San Francisco. The lawsuit says Google and YouTube "deliberately refuse to take meaningful steps to deter the rampant infringing activity readily apparent on YouTube."

Grisman v. YouTube, Inc., C-07-2518 (N.D. Cal. May 10, 2007). For more court documents see!


6/07 - European Union Questions Google's Data Retention Policy

EU's Article 29 Working Party, which is charged with providing expert opinion on issues of data protection, wrote to Google and said that despite recent changes in the search engine's data-retention policy, Google still does not meet EU standards for data retention.

In response to the letter Google decided to make the data it stores about its users anonymous in the server logs after 18 months (previously Google had said it would make the data anonymous after 18 to 24 months). The Article 29 Working Party said that it still needs to analyze Google's response to see whether it's an acceptable solution, and has asked Google several new questions about technologies that they use to collect search information.

The working group also attempts to deal with search engines in general and scrutinize their activities from a data-protection point of view.

Also trouble for Google in the USA: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has opened an antitrust investigation into Google Inc.'s proposed 3.1 billion dollar purchase of ad-management technology company DoubleClick Inc. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and other privacy groups had previously asked the FTC to investigate the privacy implications of the deal. The groups fear that the combination of Google's search history and DoubleClick's tracking of web sites visited would "give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world."

  • May 28, 2007: Lohr, Steve, Google deal said to bring U.S. scrutiny, CNet:
    "The Federal Trade Commission has opened a preliminary antitrust investigation into Google's planned $3.1 billion purchase of the online advertising company DoubleClick, an industry executive briefed on the agency's plans said Monday. "


5/07 - Use of Thumbnail Images not infringing in Germany

According to the District Court of Erfurt (text in German), Google's use of thumbnails in its image search engine does not vialate German copyright law. People who create web sites have a standing interest in getting other people to learn about and visit their web sites. The depiction of thumbnails is thus, in this case, beneficial for the copyright holder, the court wrote. Webmasters who want to restrict access to their content could make use of the robots.txt file.

The decision stands in direct opposition to a 2003 Hamburg court decision (text in German), which said that Google's image search engine violates copyright law because Google has no permission to display the images.

I personally find the Erfurt court decision more compelling. It also reflects my view, expressed in an article, published in the ZUM 2007, pages 119 - 128.


5/07 - Google sued for search result

A New Jersey building contractor is suing consumer-complaint site The Rip-Off Report for hosting a customer's negative feedback about him, and he's also going after Google for indexing the criticism and returning it in search results. Chances of success: Probably 0%, because Google is covered by 47 USC 230 for this content!

RSA Enterprises v. Bad Business Bureau, No. 2:07-cv-01882-HAA-ES (D.N.J. complaint filed April 23, 2007)


5/07 - Yahoo looses copyright lawsuit in China

In the last update, I have mentioned a case against Yahoo China brought by the IFPI because of links to web sites with unlicensed MP3 downloads. In April, a  Beijing court ordered Yahoo! China to pay about 200,000 yuan (26,000 dollars) in damages for assisting downloads of unlicensed music in other websites and delete 229 links to free songs., operator of China's largest search engine, had more luck last year: In a similar case, but under other regulations, the company  wasn't found liable for copyright violations. "The Beijing Court has confirmed that Yahoo China has clear responsibility for removing all links to the infringing tracks on its service," Kennedy, the IFPI's chairman and CEO said in a statement. "Because this is a judgment made under new regulations in China, today's judgment supersedes the previous decision on Baidu and confirms the responsibility of all similar music search providers in China." Yahoo! China plans to file an appeal.

  • April 25, 2007: McDonald, Joe, Chinese court rules against unit of Yahoo in music piracy lawsuit, San Jose Mercury News:
    "A court has ruled against Yahoo's China arm in a lawsuit that accused it of aiding music piracy, the company and a music industry group said Tuesday."

  • April 24, 2007: Yahoo China ordered to curb music links, CNN:
    "A Beijing court has ordered Yahoo China to delete links to free Web sites offering music-downloads and to pay about 200,000 yuan ($27,200) for facilitating distribution of unlicensed songs by other sites, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday."


5/07 - Google's Data Retention Policy sparks controversy

a. Norwegian Data Inspectorate investigation

“Why do the search engine store the IP addresses [of searchers] for so long and what are they using them for?” The Norwegian Data Inspectorate, an independent administrative body under the Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Government Administration, wants answers and is investigating the data storage policies of a number of search engines, including Google and Norwegian search engines Sesam and Kvasir. The focus is on whether the storage of large quantities of deta related to internet searches is a violation of Norwegian data protection laws.

According to the latest news reports a European Union advisory body has written a letter to Google warning the search giant that its pratices fall short of EU data protection standards. Google confirmed that it received an earlier letter from the Norwegian Data Protection Group. Details were not yet released.


b. Privacy Concerns Surround Proposed Google, DoubleClick Merger

In the USA, three consumer advocate organizations have filed a joint complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting that the Google/DoubleClick merger be stopped.The complaint asserts that "neither Google or DoubleClick have taken adequate steps to safeguard the personal data that is collected." The complaint says that Google's acquisition of DoubleClick "will give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world. There is simply no consumer privacy issue more pressing for the Commission to consider than Google's plan to combine the search histories and Web site visit records of Internet users."


c. Google wants to alter data retention policy

According to a March 14 announcement, Google will over the next few months begin to anonymize search data it retains. The plan is to strip parts of IP data from records in order to protect the user’s privacy and reduce the likelihood that the IP address or cookie information can be tied to a particular user.


5/07 - Google settles suit by AFP

Google Inc has settled a copyright dispute with Agence France-Presse permitting the search engine to post parts of the agency's news and photos onto its Google News site. In its lawsuit, which was filed both in the U.S. and France, AFP had sought damages of at least 17.5 million dollar as well as a court-imposed order barring Google from including its material in Google News.
In a joint statement, the two companies said the settlement allows Google to post AFP content on Google News and other services. Terms of the pact were not disclosed. The deal will let Google use AFP material "in innovative, new ways," AFP said.
Google settled a separate dispute with The Associated Press in August 2006.

  • April 6, 2007, McCarthy, Caroline, Agence France-Presse, Google settle copyright dispute, ZDNet:
    "News agency Agence France-Presse has entered into a licensing deal with Google, ending the dispute between the two over AFP's articles appearing on Google News."

  • April 6, 2007, Modine, Austin, (Agence) France(-Press) surrenders to Google, The Register:
    "News agency Agence France-Presse entered a ménage à deux today with Google en lieu of a $17.5m lawsuit over its news stories appearing on Google News."


5/07 - Feldman v. Google - AdWords Contract Upheld

According to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a forum selection clause in an online contract's terms is acceptable, and will not absolve a party who clicks "I Agree" without taking the time to view the whole agreement as long as it is readily accessible and clear. So the court did uphold Google's mandatory venue provision in its AdWords contract specifying that all lawsuits shall be brought in California. So the click fraud case between Feldman and Google was transferred from Pennsylvania to California. According to Prof. Goldman, this "should inhibit AdWords advertisers from suing Google all over the country. Therefore, all lawsuits will have to be in Google's home court..."

Feldman v. Google, Inc., Decision of March 29, 2007, United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania


4/07 - Search Ad Market no market for antitrust purposes - Person v. Google (see Update 45)

In his complaint Person claimed that Google has removed a large number of search terms from the bidding process to force small businesses to compete for higher-priced keywords. Small advertisers are being forced out of the AdWords market, which makes advertising more profitable for Google's largest advertisers (the well-known established advertisers with the higher clickthrough rates like eBay). He charged Google with monopolization or attempted monopolization.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel dismissed the antitrust lawsuit against Google. In his view there is not a monopoly despite Google's formidable presence in the online ad market: "Plaintiff defines the relevant market in the FAC as “‘keyword-targeted Internet advertising’ in which advertisers pay to have their advertisements displayed (alone or among an ordered group of ads identified as such) near the search results obtained from Internet search engine (such as the search engines of Google and Yahoo) using the keyword(s) selected by the advertiser... The Court finds no basis for distinguishing the Search Ad Market from the larger market for Internet advertising. Search-based advertising is reasonably interchangeable with other forms of Internet advertising. A website may choose to advertise via search-based advertising or by posting advertisements independently of any search. The Search Ad Market thus is too narrow to form a relevant market for antitrust purposes."

According to JupiterResearch's estimate Google's share of the U.S. online advertising market in 2006 was 17% -- one percentage point ahead of Yahoo.

Person v. Google, C 06-7297 JF (RS) (N.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 2007)

Also see:


4/07 - Payday Advance Plus v. Findwhat - Click Fraud Lawsuit in the USA

At the direction of Findwhat, Advertising allegedly hired people to conduct Internet searches through Findwhat’s search engine using certain keywords that would trigger search results and advertising listings. Advertising instructed these people to click on certain advertising links from the search results, including Plaintiff’s links, thereby causing Plaintiff Payday to incur PPC charges for each such click. Also at the direction of Findwhat, Advertising used computer programs or “bots” to click continuously and systematically on Payday’s advertising links to increase the defendants’ revenues. These “bots” were able to “spoof” different reference points on the Internet to make it appear that the clicks came from different sources. These methods, which Payday calls “click fraud”, led Payday to be charged for clicks that were not the result of genuine interest from consumers or of genuine market activity.

Playday claimed six  causes of action, e.g. breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligence and civil conspiracy. Only the breach of contract claim survived the motion to dismiss. "...Payday argues that an interpretation of the contract that would allow the defendants deliberately to generate clicks on Payday’s site from users or “bots” who plainly have no intention of making purchases should be disallowed because it would violate the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing."

Payday Advance Plus, Inc. v., Inc., 2007 WL 760437 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2007)

Also see:


4/07 - China: Yahoo sued for linking to illegal song downloads

Yahoo China, the No. 2 Chinese search engine after industry leader, links to web sites with unlicensed MP3 downloads of hundreds of songs. Warner Music Group, Sony BMG and nine other music firms have sued Yahoo China for alleged copyright violations. Beijing's intermediate court accepted the suit, which was filed in January 2007, seeking 5.5 million yuan in compensation for linking its website to unlicensed music.
The lawsuit comes four months after, operator of China's largest search engine, won a case brought by music firms claiming Baidu allowed links to illegal song downloads on its website. According to the court, Baidu did not violate copyrights because it helped users find music on non-affiliated websites through links and did not offer direct downloads of music.

  • March 7, 2007: Musikindustrie wirft Yahoo China Copyright-Verletzungen vor, Heise:
    "Universal Music, Warner Music und neun weitere Plattenfirmen haben gemeinsam Alibaba verklagt, Betreiber von Yahoo China."

  • March 6, 2007: Yahoo China sued for music downloads, Shanghai Daily
    "Eleven music companies, including Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group Corp, jointly filed a suit against Beijing-based Alibaba, operator of the Yahoo China Website, which provides online music downloading services."


4/07 - Viacom sues Google over YouTube

Viacom has filed a $1 billion copyright infringement suit against Google. Viacom says Google's YouTube sevice is hosting 160,000 infringing works, which have been viewed 1.5 billion times. It alleges that YouTube "is a significant, for-profit organization that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others' creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google. Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws."

Google managing counsel Michael Kwun wrote a peppered letter with the title "An End Run on Copyright Law" to the Washington Post in regards to the Viacom/ YouTube court case: "...Viacom is attempting to rewrite established copyright law through a baseless lawsuit. In February, after negotiations broke down, Viacom requested that YouTube take down more than 100,000 videos. We did so immediately, working through a weekend. Viacom later withdrew some of those requests, apparently realizing that those videos were not infringing, after all. Though Viacom seems unable to determine what constitutes infringing content, its lawyers believe that we should have the responsibility and ability to do it for them. Fortunately, the law is clear, and on our side."


  • March 14, 2007: Declan, McCullagh, YouTube's fate rests on decade-old copyright law, ZDNet:
    "Whether YouTube suffers the same fate as Napster may depend on the wording of a nearly antique law written long before video-sharing Web sites were envisioned."

  • March 13, 2007: Analysts: YouTube lawsuit may boost rivals, CNN:
    "Viacom's billion-dollar legal gambit against Google could lead to more media industry lawsuits and give a boost to rival online video services in the emerging marketplace."


4/07 - Search Engines Can Choose Not To Run Ads in the USA

In Langdon v. Google, Langdon, who operates web sites claiming to expose corruption by U.S. and Chinese government officials, sued Google, MSN, and Yahoo because they refused to publish his ads. Google allegedly rejected them because they attacked people, MSN  ignored his ad request, and Yahoo said it would only take ads from sites it hosts (for more information on the lawsuit see Update 41).

On February 20, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Farnan dismissed the suit. "Search engines have a First Amendment right to reject ads as part of their protected right to speak or not," Farnan wrote. So the court ruling affirms Google's right to enforce its long-standing ad policy and gives Google free reign to refuse an ad for any reason. However, one claim remains: whether Google breached a contract it had with Langdon in allowing him to sign up for AdWords.

Also see:

Text of the decision


4/07 - Google faces lawsuit in South Korea over AdSense account termination for alleged click fraud

The Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) has asked Google to rewrite sections of its AdSense contracts which empower Google to unilaterally cancel any deal. These sections are considered unfair under Korean law.

Humor University placed Google AdSense ads on its website, but from October to November 2005 did not get paid. When it complained to Google it was told its contract had been terminated because of suspicious activities ("click fraud"). The university then made a complaint to the KFTC.

  • Kim Tae-gyu, Google Faces Lawsuit Over Online Ads, Korea Times:
    "Google, the world's primary Internet search engine, is likely to face a damages suit in South Korea in connection with its context-based online advertisements, dubbed AdSense."


4/07 - Belgian Court: Google News violates copyright law

A Belgian court upheld its decision that Google violated the copyright of several Belgian newspapers by posting extracts of their stories on the Google News Web site without their permission. The Brussels Court of First Instance ruled that Google could not call on exemptions, such as claiming "fair use": "Google is reproducing and publishing works protected by copyright," it said. "Google cannot call on any exceptions set out by law relating to copyright or similar rights."

The Brussels court has fined Google 25,000 € for each day it displayed links to the Belgian newspapers, represented by plaintiff Copiepresse, a group of 18 French- and German-language publications. The sum is significantly below the original penalty of 1 million euros a day that the court set last September.

Google intends to appeal the ruling.

  • February 14, 2007: Belgian court confirms ruling against Google News, Heise:
    "Google is not allowed to publish in its news section content found in Belgian publications without the permission of the publishers in question; without explicit permission items of this kind must be removed."

  • February 13, 2007: Crampton, Thomas, Google Said to Violate Copyright Laws, New York Times:
    "A Brussels court ruled Tuesday that Google had violated copyright laws by publishing links to articles from Belgian newspapers without permission. Legal experts said the case could have broad implications in Europe for the news indexes provided by search engines."

  • February 13, 2007: Google will appeal Copiepresse decision,
    "Google will appeal today's judgment from a Belgian court that it broke the law when it used newspaper material in Google News. The company will have to stop publishing links to certain newspaper sites having been found liable for copyright infringement."

  • February 13, 2007: Robertson, Struan, Why the Belgian court ruled against Google,
    "EDITORIAL: Every search engine should obtain permission from a website before copying its pages or even snippets of text, according to a ruling by a Belgian court today."

The ruling, in French (44-page / 1.2MB PDF)


2/07 - Google wants broader Fair Use Exemptions in Australia

In a written submission to the Australian Senate Google argued that proposed fair use exemptions in a bill amending Australia's copyright law does not go far enough in protecting fair use. Google called for a specific exception that would exempt from infringement all caching, indexing and archiving where the copyright owner has not used a standardized protocol to prohibit caching or archiving: "Given the vast size of the Internet, it is impossible for any search engine to contact personally each owner of a web page to determine whether the owner desires its webpage to be searched, indexed, or cached. If such advance permission was required, the Internet would promptly grind to a halt." Google also proposes an exemption for the digitizing of library and archive material: " exception should be made for the reproduction and storage of digital copies of entire works when such reproduction is done for the purposes of permitted research, study, or private use."

Full text of the submission


2/07 - Yahoo China v. Beijing Sanjiwuxian Internet Technology

Yahoo China has won an unfair competition lawsuit in China brought against Beijing Sanjiwuxian Internet Technology, the company that operates According to the lawsuit  Qihoo's antivirus software called 360safe would tell users of Yahoo China's toolbar to uninstall the application, claiming it was malware. However, the court found that this was not the case. Beijing's Second Intermediate Court ordered Qihoo to compensate Yahoo China for unspecified damages and legal costs and to make a public announcement saying that Yahoo China's software is not malicious in nature.

  • December 21, 2006: Yahoo China wins case against rival, InfoWorld:
    "Yahoo China has won a Chinese court case it brought against rival Beijing Sanjiwuxian Internet Technology Co. Ltd. for unfair competition."


2/07 - Google: Setback in European battle for Gmail

Google's e-mail service is known as "Gmail" in all European countries, except for Germany (the district court in Hamburg handed Giersch victories at both the preliminary and final stages of the litigation, see Update 33) and the United Kingdom, where it goes by "Google Mail" as a result of trademark disputes in those countries.

In a January 23, 2007 ruling, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), the body which is responsible for European community trademarks, has ruled that Google cannot register "Gmail" across Europe, as the name is similar to Daniel Giersch's registered trademark, which translates as "G-mail ... and the Post really takes off." "The high degree of similarity between the marks leaves little room for small differences to be observed by the general public," the Office said. Google could appeal the decision, up to the highest regional court, the European Court of First Instance.

After the ruling, Giersch announced lawsuits to defend more recent registrations of the trademark in Switzerland, Norway and Monaco.


2/07 - Breach of Ad Terms: Hanson Industries v. Google Update

Google has been sued for overcharging in AdWords by CLRB Hanson Industries LLC and others, in Santa Clara Superior Court. The complaint, filed on August 3, 2005,  accuses Google of charging advertisers more than the daily limits that the system lets advertisers choose (see Update 32).

Google filed a motion for summary judgment Oct 2, 2006. Google says, the terms of the parties’ Agreement expressly state that on any single day, the AdWords system may deliver up to 20% more ads than an advertiser’s daily budget calls for and that an advertiser will never be charged more than [his/her/its] average daily budget over the course of a month. According to Google, its invoices show that Plaintiffs were not charged more than 120% of the daily budget on any given day or more than the number of days in a month multiplied by the daily budget.


2/07 - Stoller: Google will go out of business by the end of this lawsuit...

Google has sued Stoller for false advertising, unfair competition and RICO violations for claiming that Stoller owns the Google trademark. According to Wikipedia, Leo D. Stoller is an self-styled "intellectual property entrepreneur", who controversially claims rights to a large inventory of "famous" trademarks and engages in the assertive enforcement of those alleged trademark rights, threatening infringement action against people and companies who attempt to use similar marks. A federal court labeled Stoller and his companies as "vexatious litigants" in 2005. Courts have repeatedly found lawsuits brought by Stoller to be part of pattern of sham litigation and have repeatedly sanctioned him for his groundless claims of trademark rights. The complaint is a funny read. It lists out the long, long history of Mr. Stoller, and details many of the lawsuits he's lost and bogus trademarks he's claimed to own.

In 2005 Stoller tried to claim the trademark "Google", sending a letter to the USPTO on letterhead supposedly from an organization called "Google Brand Licensing and Products," claiming the use of "Google" in commerce since 1981. Stoller also claimed on his website that you could license "Google" from him. He then demanded money from Google to make this go away. He threatened to destroy the Google trademark by having it taken away as generic. He alleges that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancel Google's mark because it has become a "generic" name for the goods or services for which it is registered (15 U.S.C Section 1064(3)). He also alleges that Google has also perpetrated a fraud on the public by contacting publishers of dictionaries in order to induce the publishers to change the "lexicon" of the 'google' meaning so as to avoid the generic label.

Stoller promises that Google's stock "won't be worth $5 a share" after he's done with them and that he wouldn't be surprised if "Google goes out of business" by the end of his lawsuit...

Google v. Central Mfg Inc., No. 07CV 385 (N.D. Ill. complaint filed Jan. 19, 2007)


11/06 - Google faces court in Italy and France

A Milan prosecutor is reportedly investigating two legal representatives of Google for being accessories to "aggravated defamation" after the Internet search engine posted a video showing the violent bullying of a disabled teenager. A spokeswoman for Google in Europe said the internet search engine was sorry for the distress caused and had acted swiftly when it was informed of the video's content.

Google France was sued by Flach Film, a French film producer, for copyright infringement. They claim their video, "The World According to Bush," was published on Google Video France, and viewed more 50,000 times, before Google removed the video. "We made estimates of the prejudice, and it goes well beyond 500,000 euros ($648,700). The film has been downloaded about 50,000 times, and it has certainly been copied afterwards," Jean-Francois Lepetit, producer of the film, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

  • November 23, 2006: French film producer sues Google France, Reuters:
    "The producer of "The World According to Bush" has taken legal action against Google for distributing the film for free, becoming the latest media company to seek compensation for lost business on the Internet."


11/06 - Belgium: Copiepresse v. Google Update

After a three hour hearing, a Belgian court said it would wait until after the new year to decide whether to uphold an injunction blocking Google Inc. from reproducing snippets of Belgian press reports. Google's lawyers insist that the company had not broken copyright law by showing headlines, a few lines of text and a link to the original story. Because of an earlier ruling, Google has stripped Belgian newspaper content from Google News.

Separately, Google reached a deal with two other groups that had been plaintiffs in the Google News lawsuit in Belgium. Details were not disclosed.

And in Scandinavia? The Norwegian association for media companies, Mediebedriftenes Landsforening, argues that Google News Norway cannot make use of photographs without a proper agreement.

According to Dagens Næringsliv the association has sent a letter to Google Norway arguing that this use of photographs is in violation with Norwegian copyright law.

  • November 22, 2006: Google News finds more trouble in Europe, InfoWorld:
    "Google is facing mounting protests from newspaper publishers in Europe, the impact of which could ultimately affect the amount of content available to end users through search engines."


10/06 - Belgium: Publisher v. Search Engine

Google has been ordered by a Belgian court to remove all articles, photographs and graphics from French-speaking newspapers. Copiepresse issued the complaint and won the court ruling on September 5th. Not only does this require Google to remove content from Google News, the court order also requires removing the content from the Google cache. has a link to the full court order.

Google asked the court to reconsider its decision and requested that the requirement to post the ruling on its home pages be suspended. The court on Friday 22nd September agreed to reconsider its ruling in November this year.

Also see a press release by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) about a new software-based protocol called ACAP (Automated Content Access Protocol) which is used to tell search engine spiders, and other services, what can be done with the content they crawl. The project is due to start later this year and last for 12 months.


  • September 25, 2006: About the Google News case in Belgium, Official Google Blog:
    "You may have read recently about Google being taken to court in Belgium. Whilst we aren't allowed to comment on the judgment itself, we thought you may want to know the facts of the case -- what actually happened, and when -- and the issues it raises."

  • September 25, 2006: Googles Einspruch in Belgien zurückgewiesen, Heise:
    "Der Suchmaschinenanbieter Google muss einer gerichtlichen Anordnung Folge leisten und die Verfügung eines belgischen Gerichts auf seinen Angeboten veröffentlicht."

  • September 22, 2006: Bogatin, Donna, Google vs. Belgian media: You go Belgium!, ZDNet Blogs

  • September 18, 2006: Google muss belgische Zeitungsartikel aus seinem Angebot entfernen, Heise:
    "Der Internetsuchmaschinen-Betreiber Google muss Artikel, Fotografien und grafische Darstellungen französisch- und deutschsprachiger belgischer Zeitungen aus seinen Angeboten entfernen, die vom Unternehmen Copiepresse vertreten werden."


10/06 - Theresa Bradley sues Google over Adsense Ban

It took Theresa B. Bradley and her staff 100 hours for "placing and reviewing HTML code for Google AdSense" on her site, Although Google's AdSense terms & policies clearly states "Please note that clicking on your own ads for any reason is prohibited, to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs", Bradley clicked her own ads "to verify that the advertisers were not selling competing products" (Google provides a Preview Tool that helps customers judge the quality of AdSense advertisements on their site). It didn't take long and Google suspended her account.

Bradley now decided to sue Google for $250,000 in San Francisco federal district court because it took her so long to place and review AdSense advertisements on her web site. So let us do a little math: 250.000 dollars for 100 hours, that makes 2.500 dollars an hour. Not bad! But the nonsense continues: is not a very big web site: Only about 50 pages. So it took 2 hours to include the AdSense code into one page!

The suit also accuses Google of fraud and misrepresentation, including misrepresentation in commercial advertising, and of "willfull, wanton, fraudulent and malicious" conduct regarding its AdSense product.

Bradley's chance of success? 0 %, I guess..


8/06 - How deep can Google crawl?

Catawba County Schools in North Carolina filed an injunction against Google, saying the search engine improperly indexed private information about schoolchildren, including names, social security numbers and test scores of 619 current and former students. The information was stored in the school system's DocuShare server, which required a user name and password to access. According to Google their crawlers  cannot index information secured by password. So where is the security leak?
The temporary injunction calls for Google to remove any information pertaining to the Catawba County Schools Board of Education from its server and index and accuses the corporation of trespass.

  • June 26, 2006: Farrell, Nick, Google "hacked our website", The Inquirer:
    A School board has won a temporary injunction against the search engine outfit Google."


6/06 - Roberts v. Google

Mark Roberts claimed breach of contract, in part because of Google's add URL feature and help pages supposedly formed a promise that his pages should be top ranked. After Google threatened to file an anti-SLAPP motion against him, a means of effectively getting the court to agree that the case is without merit and recovering costs, he voluntarily dismissed the complaint without prejudice.

Roberts v. Google, No. 1-06-CV-063047 (Cal. Superior Ct. complaint filed May 5, 2006)

For more details see: Goldman, Eric, Google Avoids Another Lawsuit Over Rankings (For Now)--Roberts v. Google, Technology & Marketing Law Blog


6/06 - Google sued for refusing ad

Google has been sued for allegedly refusing an anti-China ad. According to the complaint, activist Christopher Langdon submitted a three-line ad through Google's AdWords program on Thursday, March 29. The ad read simply: "Communist China Has Murdered Millions - Boycott China"

Langdon also attempted to advertise his website with Google. That site accuses N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper of lying to the U.S. Supreme Court and perpetrating other fraud on the Court. The proposed ad read: "Roy Coopers Fraud--Cooper's fraud on the Supreme Court--Corruption within the N.C.D.O.J."

That ad was rejected, purportedly because: "At this time, Google policy does not permit ad text that advocates against an individual, group or organization.  In addition, this policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that advocate against a group protected by law."

Langdon claims that Google's reticence violates his constitutional right to free speech. In his opinion private property owners can be bound by the First Amendment if the property becomes a public space.

"There is a great deal of inconsistency and hypocrisy in the application of Google's Content Policy.  Google's Content policy  requires that the ads, and the associated website, conform to the Content Policy.  However, Google routinely allows large budget advertisers to evade Google's Content Policy.  For example, if you Google Search "Impeach Bush," or, "Anti-Hillary Clinton," there are a large number of ads (sponsored links) next to the search results. One of those sites sells material that calls Senators Clinton, Kenendy and Kerry, Communists. They also sell material accusing President Bush, and members of his administration, of murder, treason, election fraud, lying and of being Nazis.  It seems to me that if those sites can make those statements, then I should be allowed to accuse Roy Cooper of lying to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Langdon v. Google, 1:06-cv-00319-JJF (D. Delaware complaint filed May 17, 2006)

Also see: Goldman, Eric: "Must Carry" Lawsuit Against Search Engines--Langdon v. Google, Technology & Marketing Law Blog


6/06 - "Syndication Fraud" Lawsuit against Yahoo

An online advertiser filed a class action lawsuit May 1 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against Yahoo, alleging that Yahoo's practice of causing online ads to be displayed via spyware and on typosquatted web sites violates its contract with advertisers (Crafts by Veronica v. Yahoo! Inc., D.N.J., No 12:06-cv-01985, complaint filed May 1, 2006). If the class action is certified, any Yahoo! customer in the United States would be a member of the class.

Also see: Goldman, Eric, Yahoo "Syndication Fraud" Lawsuits--Crafts by Veronica v. Yahoo and Draucker Development v. Yahoo, Technology & Marketing Law Blog



6/06 - Google and Child Porn
Nassau County Legislator Jeffrey Toback is suing Google because the search engine is allegedly profiting from child pornography and taking in billions of pounds by allowing child pornography and "other obscene content" adverts on their sites through sponsored links. The lawsuit says that Google is "the largest and most efficient facilitator and distributor of child pornography in the world."  Google "continues to put its economic gains ahead of the interests and well-being of America's children," the lawsuit, filed in Nassau State Supreme Court alleges.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald Google spokesman Steve Langdon responded: "Child pornography is illegal, and Google prohibits it in our products. When we find or are made aware of any child pornography, we remove it from our products, including our search engine. We also report it to the appropriate law enforcement officials and fully co-operate with the law enforcement community to combat child pornography".
As for the lawsuit's chances of success, they seem to be very small,  see Goldman, Eric, Google Sued for Child Porn--Toback v. Google, Technology & Marketing Law Blog

Toback v. Google, Inc., No. 06-007246 (NY Sup. Ct. complaint filed May 4, 2006)

  • May 10, 2006: Google accused of profiting from child porn, The Register:
    "Google has been sued by Nassau County Legislator Jeffrey Toback who claims the search giant is promoting and profiting from child pornography, going so far as to suggest that child porn is part of its business model, according to reports."
  • May 5, 2006: Broache, Anne, Suit accuses Google of profiting from child porn, CNet:
    "Google has made child pornography an "obscenely profitable and integral part" of its business and must be stopped, a new lawsuit claims."

    In June 2006 Jeffrey Toback has dropped a federal lawsuit that had claimed the search engine company Google Inc. profits from child pornography. He said he did this because "Google has offered to sit down and discuss the issues. They didn't want to do that while litigation was pending, so we're taking them up on their offer."

    • June 23, 2006: N.Y. Lawmaker Drops Google Porn Lawsuit, The Age:
      "A Long Island politician has dropped a federal lawsuit that had claimed the search engine company Google Inc. profits from child pornography."

    • June 23, 2006: Broache, Anne, Politician drops child porn suit against Google, CNet:
      "A New York politician who accused Google of profiting from child pornography and violating federal law has dropped his lawsuit, the search giant said."


6/06 - Click Fraud case not settled yet (see Update 38)
On the matter of the proposed settlement that Google is trying to make in California regarding click fraud, the judge is expected to consider the class-action settlement in late July. The former Google advertiser Joseph Kinney sued in Arkansas state court to block the settlement, arguing the amount grossly understates how much the online search engine leader has benefited from "click fraud."

The agreement is available here (PDF), and the order giving preliminary agreement is available here.


6/06 - Belgian Company Sues Google Over Google Suggest Suggestions
A Belgian network-monitoring outfit called ServersCheck has sued Google claiming its tool bar points the way to pirated software. The suit claims that Google's Suggest feature shows would-be purchasers of ServersCheck software where to get the latest cracks and pirated versions. When you begin to type your search at Google Suggest on "ServersCheck" it brings up results for e.g. "ServersCheck Crack" and "ServersCheck Serial."


5/06 - Google dislikes Ashley Cole
The premiership footballer Ashley Cole is involved in legal action against the News of the World and The Sun over stories alleging bisexuality among Premiership players. And Google is doing its best to attract more people to the story: Typing "ashley cole" into the search engine generates "See results for: ashley cole gay"! Cole’s solicitors want to know when and what prompted the process. Cole said: "I am keen to find out whether the decision to automatically include the term ‘gay’ to the keyword ‘Ashley Cole’ was an editorial decision or one made by a computer based on the volume of searches for ‘Ashley Cole’ linked to the word ‘gay’."


5/06 - Google Video: Posting of a copyright protected video
Filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a subpoena issued Feb. 21 demands that Google and video-sharing site YouTube reveal the name of the person who posted a portion of one of American Airline's training videos on their Web sites.


5/06 - Google settles suit over click fraud
Last year, a consortium of advertisers (led by Lane's Collectibles) has filed a class action suit in Arkansas against Yahoo, Google and 9 other search engines, accusing the search companies of  knowingly charging for fraudulent clicks.

In March, Google agreed to pay up to $90 million in legal fees and compensation in the form of credits for further advertising to companies who believe they have been affected by click fraud, to settle its part of the lawsuit.  If approved by the judge in the case, the agreement will cover all advertisers who claim to have been charged but not compensated for invalid clicks as far back as 2002 when the pay per click programme was introduced.

A spokeswoman for Yahoo said her company was prepared to continue to defend itself against the legal action.

Also see the official Google Blog!

2/06 - Google v. BMW: Doorway Pages are evil

Google accused BMW of manipulating search results by using so called "doorway pages". Doorway pages can be used to trick search engines into sending users to Web sites that are not directly related to the search terms they are searching for. Google's quality guidelines forbid the use of doorway pages ("Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users."). Although BMW said that the pages had been created to direct people who were interested in topics related to BMW -- such as used cars -- to the right pages, the doorway pages were removed. Shortly after the BMW website could be found again at Google.

The case once again rises the question if search engines are completely free in deciding which website they include in their index. A new article from me, that will presumably be published in the April issue of the MMR, will adress this topic in more detail. A short statement to the BMW / Google case has been published by Telepolis:

  • February 10, 2006: Ott, Stephan, Google räumt auf, Telepolis:
    "Warum der Kampf der Suchmaschine gegen Suchmaschinen-Spam leicht zum Bumerang werden könnte"

Also see:

  • February 8, 2006: steht wieder im Google-Index, Heise:
    "Der Suchmaschinenbetreiber Google hat die deutschen Webseiten des Autobauers BMW wieder in seinen Index aufgenommen."

  • February 8, 2006: Mills, Elinor, back in Google index, CNet:
    "The German language Web sites of carmaker BMW and technology product vendor Ricoh are back in the search results on Google's search site after they stopped using a technique designed to artificially boost their search engine rating, according to a Google engineer."

  • February 7, Google Imposes a Ban on BMW Web Site, NY Times:
    "Google has removed the German Web site of BMW from its Internet search index, saying that the company was redirecting users from requested information to another page selling luxury cars."

  • February 6, 2006: BMW sieht Google-Vorwürfe gelassen, Heise:
    "Der Autobauer BMW hat gelassen auf den Rauswurf seiner deutschen Webseite aus dem Suchindex der Internet-Suchmaschine Google reagiert."
  • February 5, 2006: Google sperrt nun auch deutsche Webseiten mit versteckten Suchwörtern aus, Heise:
    "Man kann es auch in den deutschen Richtlinien des Suchmaschinenbetreibers nachlesen, dass Webseiten mit versteckten Wörtern und anderen Tricks zur Erhöhung des Trefferrankings unerwünscht sind."


1/06 - Salu, Inc. v. Pitts
The Plaintiff (Salu) had obtained a high ranking in search results generated from searches for products sold through its website As one example, his website achieved a ranking in or about fourth place for a search of the product name “Hylexin”. Then the defendants started operating a website called The complaint alleges that defendants knowingly have copied Salu’s web content to take over Salu’s high position in search rankings. Since then no longer maintained its high ranking when a search for the product “hylexin” is conducted using the search engine. Instead, the website “” appeared in exactly the same place in the search rankings that should appear. Upon information and belief of the plaintiff, the Google search engine has identified the website as a substitute or update of the website, and substituted the former in the latter’s place in search rankings for this product. Salu claims he faces a significant loss of its economic advantage and significant loss of sales, as fewer prospective customers are able to find its website through the operation of common search engines like

The complaint can be found at:


1/06 - Click Defense v. Google Update
On June 24, 2005, Click Defense, a company which provides software to keep track of Pay-Per-Click advertising, sued Google Inc. in the US District Court in San Jose, claiming that the search engine has failed to protect users of its advertising program from "click fraud," costing them at least $5 million.

In December 2005, the company said in a statement it wanted to withdraw as the lead plaintiff named in the lawsuit in order to focus on its own business. "We remain a member of the class and our click fraud claims against Google will still be litigated when and if the class is certified." Scott Boyenger, Click Defense's Chief Executive Officer is quoted. AIT, a $34 million-a-year Internet service provider serving customers in the mid-Atlantic states and the Carolinas, said it plans to take over as lead plaintiff.

A hearing on the motion for class certification in the Google click fraud case has been scheduled for May of 2006.


  • December 9, 2005: Click fraud suit changes hand, The Register:
    "Click Defense, a web analytics firm that intiated proceedings against Google in June, alleging that the search engine was failing to stop click fraud, is to be replaced as lead plaintiff in the suit by web hosting firm Advanced Internet Technology (AIT)"
  • December 9, 2005: Kläger gegen Google zieht sich zurück,
    "Im Juni sorgte das US-Unternehmen Click Defense für Schlagzeilen, als es ein als Sammelklage angelegtes Verfahren gegen Google beantragte..."
  • December 7, 2005: Stefanie, Olsen, Click fraud in the courts, CNet:
    "Click fraud is the search industry's dirty secret."


12/05 - AdSense Extortion in Germany
M. Adams of has been slowly increasing the AdSense revenue for some German web sites over the last few months. Last week he sent e-mails to the operators demanding money for his "service" in the future. If they choose not to comply he would increase the clicks so that Google would take notice and possibly cancel the website owner's AdSense account.

Loose translation of the e-mail:

Dear Mr. XY,

you probably have noticed an increase in your AdSense revenue during October. This is a direct result of us including your website in our test program.

For details see

As you can learn from your latest payments from Google, our concept works very well. We have about 1000 German employees to test web sites...

With their help we are able to increase the number of web site visitors and income from advertising.

We are also able to "destroy" AdSense accounts by increasing the click rate so that Google will notice it and delete the account.

As you surely can understand, we want to participate in the revenue increase. So far we have no contractual relations. There are two options for you:

You reject our offer and refuse to pay us money. In this case we will stop our activities. However, you risk loosing your latest revenue and your AdSense account.

You accept our offer and pay us 50% of the increased revenue. We then will continue to slowly increase the revenue.

I believe it is an easy decision for you. The second alternative is a win-win situation for both of us.

Please let us know your decision immediately.


M. Adams


The case was discussed in more detail in the abacus forum. Google has been notified by several webmasters and they have already tracked down a Mr. Lutzenberger as the real person behind the scam.

  • December 3, 2005: Geschäftsmodell AdSense-Missbrauch, Heise:
    "Wie verschiedene Teilnehmer des Werbeprogramms Google AdSense berichten (1, 2), manipuliert ein angeblicher Michael Adams der in Panama ansässigen Firma die Zugriffe auf AdSense-Werbeeinträge."


12/05 - Regulating Search?: A Symposium on Search Engines, Law, and Public Policy
The Information Society Project at Yale Law School presented "Regulating Search?: A Symposium on Search Engines, Law, and Public Policy," the first academic conference devoted to search engines and the law on December 3, 2005 at Yale Law School in New Haven, CT. The symposium brought together technologists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, executives, lawyers, computer scientists, and activists to discuss the emerging field of search engine law. More information on the conference can be found at Eric Goldman posted some notes he took at the conference in his Technology and Marketing Law Blog.


11/05 - Google Print - copyright infringement by scanning books?

Five publishing houses - McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education and Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons - filed a suit in New York against Google Print. Under the program, Google plans to scan and index millions of copyrighted books taken from the collections of the three universities Harvard, Stanford and Michigan. The suit seeks a declaration that Google infringes on the publishers' copyrights when the Web search leader scans entire books without permission of copyright owners. Google claims, that the scanning of the full text of the books is necessary to create a searchable catalogue of the books located within the libraries' collections. Only snippets of copyrighted works will be available through the search engine. There are no plans to make full copies of copyrighted works available without their owners' permission.
In September, the Authors Guild joined with three US writers - Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman - to file a similar lawsuit. The Authors Guild filing was a class-action lawsuit that seeks damages, the publishers' suit seeks a declaration that Google is committing copyright infringement by scanning books (also see Update 33)


  • October 20, 2005: Sherriff, Lucy, Publishers join forces to sue Google, The Register:
    "The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is suing Google over its plans to make scans of millions of books available online."

  • October 19, 2005: Italie, Hillel, Publishers Sue Google Over Scanning Plans, ABC News:
    "Just weeks after a leading authors' organization sued Google for copyright infringement, the Association of American Publishers has also filed suit against the search engine giant's plans to scan and index books for the Internet."


11/05 - Google rebrands its free GMail web service in the UK

Google voluntarily dropped the Gmail brand in the UK following a trademark dispute with Independent International Investment Research (IIIR) ,who has been using the "G-Mail" name for its Pronet subsidiary's Web-based e-mail product since May 2002.  

Although Google replaced "Gmail" with "googlemail" in Great Britain, a lawsuit is still looming: Shane Smith, chairman and chief executive of Independent II Research, asserts that the dispute about the ownership of the rights to Gmail is by no means over, because Google's decision to change the name of its email services to Google mail relates solely to the UK. IIIR announced it would still pursue Google for damages and that it expected the US search engine to drop Gmail worldwide.

Earlier this year, Google lost the right to use Gmail in Germany, following a dispute with Daniel Giersch, who had registered 'Gmail - und die Post geht richtig ab' with the German Patent Office in 2000.


  • October 19, 2005: Leyden, John, Google loses its G-spot, The Register:
    "A trademark dispute has forced Google to re-brand its Gmail web mail service in the UK. Existing users get to retain their Gmail address (at least for now) but from Wednesday onwards new UK users will be given a Googlemail email address instead."

  • October 19, 2005, Google muss auch englisches Gmail umbenennen, Heise:
    "Auch in England muss Google seinen Freemail-Dienst Gmail nach einem Markenrechtsstreit umbenennen."


9/2005 - Authors Guild sues: Google Print a massive copyright infringement?

The Authors Guild, which represents 8,000 authors in the United States, has filed a class-action copyright infringement lawsuit [PDF] against Google in the Southern District of New York because of its Google Print program that makes books and other offline information searchable online. Google has contracted with several public and university libraries to create digital archives of the libraries' collections of books. The suit alleges that by reproducing a copy of these works that are not in the public domain, Google is engaging in massive copyright infringement.

“This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law,” said Authors Guild President Nick Taylor. “It’s not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied.”

In a first reaction, Google regrets "that this group chose to sue us over a program that will make millions of books more discoverable to the world -- especially since any copyright holder can exclude their books from the program." Google also did point out, that its programm "doesn’t show even a single page to users who find copyrighted books through this program (unless the copyright holder gives us permission to show more). At most we show only a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries."

  • September 21, 2005: Orlowski, Andrew, Authors sue Google, The Register:
    "The Authors Guild, along with a former US poet laureate, is suing Google for copyright infringement."

  • September 21, 2005: Google wegen "massiver Copyright-Verletzungen" verklagt, Heise:
    "Die Autorenvereinigung Authors Guild und einige einzelne Autoren haben gegen Google eine Sammelklage eingereicht."

  • September 20, 2005: Mills, Elinor, Authors Guild sues Google over library project, CNet:
    "The Authors Guild on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against search engine Google, alleging that its scanning and digitizing of library books constitutes a "massive" copyright infringement."


9/2005 - GMail - The next legal threat

A Hamburg court temporarily ordered Google to change the name of its Gmail product in Germany, after Google was sued by Giersch Ventures. Now the product is called "Google Mail" in Germany, pending the outcome of that trial (also see Update 30). Now Google is facing yet another GMail lawsuit, this time in Great Britain: After 15 months of negotiations with Google, Independent International Investment Research, who has been using the "G-Mail" name for its Pronet subsidiary's Web-based e-mail product since May 2002, has been unable to reach a settlement with Google on use of the trademark and may sue the search engine.

  • September 12, 2005: Costello, Miles, New legal threat to Google over GMail, Times Online
    "Google, the internet search engine, is facing a renewed threat of legal action from a company that claims to own the intellectual property rights to its GMail e-mail service."


8/05 - Google wins click fraud-case
In November 2004 Google filed a suit against Auctions Expert International LLC claiming that the Houston-based company artificially and/or fraudulently" generated clicks on the ads Google served to the company's Web site. Auctions Expert, like other AdSense publishers, received a share of pay-per-click revenue when visitors clicked on the ads on the Auctions Expert page. According to Google, Auctions Expert hired dozens of people to click on the site's ads.

In May Google quietly won a $75,000 judgment  in this case.

  • July 5, 2005: Davis, Wendy, Google Wins $75,000 In Click Fraud Case, MediaPost Publications:
    "GOOGLE QUIETLY WON A $75,000 judgment in May in a click fraud case against former AdSense participant Auctions Expert International and its two founders."

  • November 22, 2004: Olsen, Stefanie, Google gets gruff over click fraud, CNet:
    "Google filed a lawsuit against an Internet operation that it claims systematically clicked on text ads to defraud its advertising network."


8/05 - Click Defense sues Google because of Click Fraud

On June 24, 2005, Click Defense, a company which provides software to keep track of Pay-Per-Click advertising, sued Google Inc. in the US District Court in San Jose, claiming that the search engine has failed to protect users of its advertising program from "click fraud," costing them at least $5 million.

Google's AdWords program permits Google's advertising customers to purchase advertising links associated with certain keywords. Google posts the links on the margins of its search engine results pages based on whichever keywords appear in user queries posted to Google's Internet search engine. Google's advertising customers pay Google based on the number of Internet users who click on these advertising links. Click fraud (or Click Spamming) is the term, the industry uses to describe when someone clicks on a search advertisement with an ill intent and with no intention of doing business with the advertiser. Click fraud  is a growing problem in the search engine business (some analysts believe as many as 20% of clicks are fraudulent), and involves competitors clicking repetitively on ads, hiring others to do so, or using automated programs (robots) for this purpose, in order to keep companies from effectively using competitive keywords.

In the complaint, Google, which derives 99% of its revenue from Adwords, is accused of breach of contract, neglicence, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices:

  • Google breached its contract with Plaintiffs by collecting fees for clicks even though Google knew, or should have reasonably known, that the clicks were not actual clicks, but rather purposeful clicks made for an improper purpose

  • Google has breached its duty to monitor its AdWords program for click fraud and to protect plaintiffs from click fraud

  • Google's conduct violates the California Business & Professions Code § 17200 ("unfair competition shall mean and include any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.")


  • June 30, 2005: Neue Klage gegen Google,
    "Google wird in einem weiteren Verfahren mit dem Vorwurf konfrontiert, zu wenig gegen Klickbetrug zu unternehmen."

  • June 30, 2005: Click fraud lawsuit targets Google, CNet:
    "A seller of online marketing tools said Wednesday it sued Google, charging that the Web search giant has failed to protect users of its advertising program from click fraud, costing them at least $5 million."


8/05 - Google sued for overcharging

Google has been sued for overcharging in AdWords for the third time (the first lawsuit was brought by a consortium of advertisers led by Lane's Collectibles, see Update 30, the second by Click Defense). The suit, filed by CLRB Hanson Industries LLC and others, in Santa Clara Superior Court accuses Google of charging advertisers more than the daily limits that the system lets advertisers choose. The complaint has been filed on August 3, 2005 (CLRB Hanson Industries LLC v. Google, Inc., Case No. 1-05-CV-046409).



6/05 - Google accused of having a political bias for the Democratic Party
On June 9, 2005 Google banned a previously approved online ad campaign for the new book "Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine", that documents abuses of power by Bill and Hillary Clinton. According to the author, “Google's decision to reverse its prior approval and shut down this banner ad campaign reeks of political bias. The company's liberal leanings are pretty widely known, but this example of blatant editorial censorship is still shocking.” In his press release he also points out that Google still displays ads disparaging current Republican officials with headlines such as "Hate Bush? So Do We," “Bush Belongs Behind Bars,” and "George W. Bush Fart Doll." A Google spokesman said that the decision was based on Google's policies, that prohibit ads against an individual (Ad text advocating against any organization or person (public, private, or protected) is not permitted. Stating disagreement with or campaigning against a candidate for public office, a political party or public administration is generally permissible. This standard applies to everyone who wants to advertise on Google, whether we agree with their viewpoint or not.), not on their political views. He also indicated that only some of the submitted ads were denied and that the approved ads are still running.
  • June 13, 2005: Richardson, Chris: Author Blames Google For Ad Censorship, Web Pro News:
    "Once again failing to understand the Google AdWords TOS agreement, another person is attempting to make a misguided connection between an AdWords campaign denial by Google and a liberal political bias."


5/05 - "G-mail" becomes "Google Mail" in Germany

Google has changed the name of their German email service, because Daniel Giersch owns the rights to "G-Mail" in Germany and has no plans to release the naming rights to Google. Google will now call the German service "Google Mail".


5/05 - What happened to "We are not evil" - Google v. Froogles

The website - registered in December 2000 by Mr. Wolfe- seeks to attract "frugal" shoppers by offering a wide variety of quality merchandise at discounted or sale prices. In 2002 Google launched a comparison-shopping site of its own, called In Google's pending application to register the mark FROOGLE in the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO"), Mr. Wolfe filed a Notice of Opposition on March 24, 2004, thus angering Google.

Google asked an arbitration panel of the ICANN (the domain name organization) to not allow to use the domain because it was "confusingly similar" to Google. The panel ruled in Wolfe's favour. According to the panel, the domain name is not confusingly similar to the GOOGLE mark.  The dissimilar letters in the domain name are sufficiently different to make it distinguishable from the GOOGLE mark because the domain name creates an entirely new word and conveys an entirely singular meaning from the mark. The decision can be found at:

Google now has filed suit against Froogles in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn alleging trademark infringment. In the suit, Google claims that it is the "senior user of marks that incorporate the formative " -- OOGLE" for Internet search services."

The Complaint can be found at:


3/05 - Google too powerful? The Greens think so!

The parliamentary group of the Greens in the Bundestag, the lower chamber of Germany's federal parliament published a booklet called "Suchmaschinen: Das Tor zum Netzd" ("Search Engines: The Gate to the Net"). The Greens want to remind the search engine operators of the "great responsibility" they bear and demand that they clearly disclose sponsored results.

In the opinion of the Greens it is also very important to strengthen alternatives to the current market leader Google.


3/05 - The future of aggregated news sites: AFP v. Google

The future of aggregated news sites supplied by internet companies such as Google was called into question: The French news agency AFP (Agence France-Presse)  is suing Google Inc. before the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., for pulling together photos and story excerpts from thousands of news Web sites. AFP said the "Google News" service infringes on AFP's copyrights by reproducing information from the Web sites of subscribers of the Paris-based news wholesaler and is seeking $17.5m in damages and wants an injunction issued against Google to stop showing its news items in the first paragraph of its news feeds.

AFP alleged that Google has ignored requests to cease and desist from infringing its copyright work. AFP's own Web site includes a "robots.txt" file that spurns search engines, telling them to avoid indexing its news pages. But things are quite more complicated than that, because the stories Google used came not directly from AFP but from its subscribers, some of which might want the rest of their sites indexed to generate ad-boosting referrals.

Google says it has begun removing AFP's stories from its news aggregation site.

AFP's lawsuit (pdf)


3/05 - Google's Auto-Link-Feature
Google has included a feature on its newest toolbar, (Toolbar 3 Beta) that adds links to websites viewed when using the toolbar (the so called Auto-Link Feature). For now, Auto-Link works in four categories: street addresses (whisking you to Google Maps by default, but you can switch to MapQuest or Yahoo Maps); ISBN numbers (linking to; package tracking numbers (pointing to DHL, FedEx, United Parcel Service and the U.S. Postal Service); and vehicle identification numbers (hyperlinks to Why only this collection of items? Because they can be reliably identified and have only one correct match. Google won't try to link "Stephan Ott" to any website as there are more people with the name out there and the author of Links & Law might not be the person most webusers are looking for (although they should :-)

The Search Engine Journal has a very good example of the consequences this might have: If a web-user was to try to purchase a book from Barnes and Nobel, the second largest online bookseller, while using the new toolbar, a link to rival would be added to the view's version of the Barnes and Noble site as soon as the book's ISBN appeared. 

AutoLink rises some legal questions: Does Google have the right to add links to pages authored by others thus modifying the content. In my point of view too much fuss about nothing: Users can decide whether they want to use the new feature and Google's technology will not override existing links. Users can disable AutoLink with a single mouse click. (For a closer look at the legal issues see Goldman, Eric: Google's AutoLink tool, Eric Goldman Blog).


AutoLink does not involve financial or advertising deals so far and is designed simply as a convenience


1/05 - ACS sues Google over Scholar

The American Chemical Society (ACS) filed a complaint on Dec. 9 against Google Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint contends that Google's use of the trademark "Scholar" for its Google Scholar literature-search engine constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition. Google has launched the new Google Scholar search service in November 2004, providing the ability to search for scholarly literature located across the Web. ACI has its own six year old research tool designed for academic scientists, called SciFinder Scholar. About 1,000 colleges and universities have bought the service, which provides access to all of CAS's databases, including information on journal and patent references, substance information, regulated chemicals, chemical reactions, and chemical supplier information. So is it all about Google Scholar is free, SciFinder is paid? ACS can't sue Google for making information free, but they can sue for trademark infringement...


12/04 - Google sued by Perfect 10
Red Herring reports that Perfect 10, an "adult" magazine and Web Site has filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles Court against Google. Google’s search results pull up photos of Perfect 10's nude female models on websites that have no licence to do so. So the suit alleges that the "search engine giant provided Internet users with at least 800,000 unauthorized links to images of Perfect 10’s nude models, stealing membership fees and advertising revenue from the Los Angeles publisher."  

A letter from Perfect 10 to Google demanding the removal of specified links can be found at Chillinghouse Effects.



11/04 - Gambling Ads
Yahoo, Google and several other major websites and companies have been hit with a lawsuit saying they carry online gambling ads in violation of California law. The lawsuit demands that the companies stop accepting advertisements based on searches for terms such as "illegal gambling," "Internet gambling" and "California gambling."
  • August 5, 2004: Mithaftung für kontext-bezogene Werbung?,
    "Google, Yahoo und etliche andere Suchmaschinen stehen vor einem neuen Problem. Eine in Kalifornien eingeleitete Sammelklage behauptet, dass die Suchhilfen bewusst Werbeaufträge von Glücksspiel-Anbietern annehmen. Doch das verstößt gegen kalifornisches Recht."
  • August 3, 2004: Ben, Charny, Major Web sites hit with suit over gambling ads,
    "Some gambling ads on Google, Yahoo and other major Web sites are illegal in California, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday."


In June 2005, California state Judge Richard Kramer in San Francisco ruled that the suit can proceed with the evidence gathering process in the case.


10/04 - Googles v. Google 
Stelor Productions, the company that owns and operates, has launched trademark proceedings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office against Google. The complaint alleges that the ubiquitous search engine site is in breach of copyright laws by offering services aimed at children. Stelor also charges that Google's mark is confusingly similar to its own, and is opposing Google's trademark application to cover a "long list of 'Google' goods and services, including children's books, stickers and children's clothing." Googles, which  is mostly concerned with Google's new Froogle price matching service, ultimately wants Google to keep its name away from children's content, merchandise and services.
  • July 7, 2004: Hines, Matt, In name dispute, it's Googles vs. Google, CNet:
    Internet search giant Google is the target of a trademark complaint filed by the owners of children's Web site
  • July 7, 2004: Googles gegen Google, Golem:
    Stelor Productions, Kinderspielzeug-Hersteller und Betreiber der Kinder-Website, hat beim US-Patent- und Markenamt beantragt, dass die Marke "Google" des Suchmaschinenbetreibers Google gelöscht wird.


8/04 - Google updates Toolbar - introduces Browse by Name
In July 2004 Google added a new feature to its toolbar that allows users to navigate the Web by typing in a name instead of a URL. Now, to search, you simply type the name or description of the site you're looking for. If there's a strong match, Google will go straight to that page. If users type in a name that isn't specific or well recognized, the toolbar automatically performs a Google search on the subject, giving users a choice of destinations to choose from, the company said.
  • July 16, 2004: Neue Google-Toolbar für den IE versteht Begriffseingaben, Golem:
    " Google hat seine Google Toolbar für den Internet Explorer überarbeitet und bietet ab sofort eine neue Version zum Download an. Als Neuerung wurde nun die Möglichkeit integriert, dass Begriffe direkt eingegeben werden können und Google versucht, dazu die passende Webseite zu finden. Außerdem werden damit Webseiten-Adressen bei der Eingabe vervollständigt."

  • July 15, 2004: Sherman, Chris, Google Toolbar Adds Keyword Browsing to Internet Explorer, Searchenginewatch:
    " Google has added a keyword based browsing feature to its toolbar, allowing users to type words rather than URLs into the Internet Explorer address bar and automatically see the "most relevant" site for those terms."

  • July 15, 2004: Google kapert MSIE-Adresszeile,
    " Der Google Toolbar wurde um die Funktion "Browse by Name" erweitert."


6/04 - Google knows what people want...
Google's spell checking software automatically looks at your query and checks to see if you are using the most common version of a word's spelling. If it calculates that you're likely to generate more relevant search results with an alternative spelling, it will ask "Did you mean: (more common spelling)?". So far so good. But did you ever search for legal movies on Google? No? Well, try Google Germany and search for "legaler filmdownload" (means legal film download). The result is quite surprising. Google knows what users really want: Google comes up with the question: Did you mean "illegaler filmdownload" :-)




Search Engine Law Overview

Latest News - Update 71

Legal trouble for YouTube in Germany

Germany: Employer may google job applicant

EU: Consultation on the E-Commerce-Directive

WIPO Paper on tradmarks and the internet

The ECJ and the AdWords Cases



Masthead/Curriculum Vitae
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