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Update 17: May 2, 2004

This is the last update before the summer break. The next update will be in August or September 2004! 

1. Google sued for libel

On March 25, 2003, Mark Maughan, a certified public accountant with the Brown & Maughan firm, googled his name and found some "alarming, false, misleading and injurious results" about himself and his firm. Specifically, he alleges that the search results falsely represent that plaintiffs Maughan and/or Brown & Maughan have e.g. been disciplined for gross negligence. The plaintiff's attorney, John A. Girardi, claims that the error was created because of Google's PageRank algorithm. His argument seems to be based around the idea that Google provides "snippets" of text from a website when it creates its search engine results listings. In his view PageRank "reformats information obtained from accurate sources, resulting in changing of the context in which information is presented." To better illustrate this case, consider another example. My website features articles about several lawsuits. In some of them Playboy was the plaintiff. If someone searches for my name "Stephan Ott", it is possible that Google would list my website with the text snippets: "Stephan Ott ... Playboy .... illegally published copyrighted materials". Would any search engine user believe I'm a playboy that offers illegal material? Without clicking on the link to my website, I doubt it, but Mark Maughan doesn't. His lawsuit seeks an injunction to force Google to discontinue use of the PageRank system as well as requesting unspecified monetary damages. Yahoo! and AOL-Time Warner were also listed as co-defendants. Well, someone better tell the plaintiff that the PageRank algorithm only is one factor that determines on which position a website is listed within the search results (see Technical Background: Search Engines).


  • March 22: Google Sued Over PageRank, webpronews:
    "A man in Southern California is irate over the results of “Googling” his name. Mark Maughan, certified public accountant of the Brown & Maughan firm, believes the search results for “Mark Maughan” contained “alarming, false, misleading and injurious results.”

  • March 19, 2004: Accountant "Googles" Himself, Sues for Libel, NBC 4:
    "A South Bay accountant who said an Internet search engine returned "alarming" information about him and his firm sued Google, AOL, Time Warner and Yahoo! Friday for libel."


2. Google sued for trademark infringement

Insurance company Axa is suing Google in France for allowing its competitors to buy targeted ads on the search engine’s search results pages that use or are associated with Axa trademarks. This is latest the suit charging Google with the sale of a company's trademark to its competition through AdWords, Google's keyword search placement network. A preliminary hearing is set for 10th May. Here is an overview over pending lawsuits against Google.

  • April 27, 2004: Olsen, Stefanie / Fiutak, Martin, Axa verklagt Google, ZDNet:
    "Versicherungskonzern wehrt sich gegen bezahlte Werbung mit dem eigenen Namen"

  • April 27, 2004: AXA sues Google over keyword advertising,
    "Google is gearing up for a legal battle in the French courts over its keyword advertising sales service."

  • April 26, 2004: Axa klagt gegen Google, Heise:
    "Der französische Versicherungskonzern AXA ist in Frankreich gegen den Suchmaschinenbetreiber Google vor Gericht gegangen."

  • April 26, 2004: Oates, John, Google back in court over Adwords, The Register:
    "French insurance giant AXA is taking Google to court over allegations that the search engine sold on AXA trademarks as search terms."


3. ShareReactor

The Swiss Judical Inquiry Department of Thurgau has taken down the ShareReactor web site due to copyright infringement. ShareReactor was online for about 30 months and served as a link platform for filesharing offerings, especially as an anchorpoint for links to downloads of copyright and trademark protectet games and movies. The site made the "search" feature of filesharing programs irrelevant by using hash codes to directly link to a file.


4. Also in the news

  • April 22, 2004: Google ignoring trade marks in keyword sales,
    "Google is to abandon its policy of screening for trade marks when advertisers select keywords for its popular AdWords service. Observers are warning that it risks being sued by companies who find their brands being sponsored to promote the web sites of rivals."

  • April 14, 2004: Keine Werbung für Online-Casinos bei Google & Co,
    "Die beiden Webportale und Suchmaschinenbetreiber Google und Yahoo wollen künftig keine Werbung für Online-Casinos auf ihren Websites bringen."

  • April 13, 2004: Olsen, Stefanie, Google plans trademark gambit, CNet:
    "Google plans to stop limiting sales of trademarks in its popular keyword advertising program, a high-stakes gamble that could boost revenue but also create new legal problems for the company."

  • April 6, 2004: McCullagh, Declan, Judge won't toss out Google, Overture suit:
    "A federal judge in New York has rejected requests from Google and Overture Services to throw out a lawsuit that claims the two search companies unlawfully sold advertising based on a pet store owner's registered trademark."


New in Decisions

  • Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht Hamburg, Decision of November 6, 2003, 5 U 48/03

    Duty to inform

    Ist der Preis eines beworbenen Produkts erst nach dem Anklicken eines Links mit dem Text "Top Tagespreis" in Erfahrung zu bringen, liegt ein Verstoß gegen die PreisangabenVO vor.


New in Legal Resources

  • Walker, Craig, Application of the DMCA Safe Harbor Provisions to Search Engines, Virginia Journal of Law & Technology, Winter 2004, Vol. 9 No. 2, p. 1-23





The Links & Law website is updated regularily, so  check back for updated information and resources about search engine and linking issues.

You are currently in the archive with older news. A complete list of the updates can be found here!

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



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