Apparently, if someone makes defamatory remarks on a website that appears on Google’s search results, it’s the search engine’s fault—at least in Australia, anyways. The Guardian is one of many international news sites reporting that an Australian music promoter, Milorad Trkulja, has successfully sued the Silicon Valley giant for 200-grand “over material online, which linked him with criminal figures in Melbourne.” Turns out the guy caught a stray bullet in ’04, but it wasn’t a mob hit. Besides, anyone who’s seen that terrible Get Shorty sequel knows that when the mob gets involved in the music business, consequences will never be the same! (Especially when they get The Rock to play a gay bodyguard…)
In any case, while this ruling wouldn’t apply outside of the Land Down Under, it could potentially set a global precedent, as The Guardian’s David Banks writes. “If the Australian decision is followed by courts elsewhere search engines and platform providers will have to be a lot quicker in dealing with requests to take down material when they are contacted by a potential claimant and they will have to be more responsive to requests to sever links to defamatory content if their ‘not our responsibility, contact the webmaster’ response opens them up to liability.” Then again, one has to wonder what sort of SEO wizardry has allowed such completely non-factual pages to appear so highly in Google’s search rankings in the first place…
That said, just because someone can now sue Google, it doesn’t mean the web providers are out the clear, either—as long as they’ve got some money, mind you. The Guardian also notes that Trkulja “had already won $225,000 damages against Yahoo, which hosted the site concerned, in March.” No word as to what he plans to do with his winnings, but you can probably expect some bitchin’ gigs to hit Melbourne in 2013. ;)
And hey, even if he’d lost the case, Trkulja would have cleared his reputation based on the publicity factor alone. You can no longer read about the promoter’s fabricated gangland ties on Google, as the first page of results for his name only shows sites related to his court case. I guess being known in the music business as “the guy who sued Google” beats being “the man with the mob,” right?