The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Google is barred from displaying the websites of a company accused of counterfeiting another business’ technology.
The ruling is particularly noteworthy because it marks the “first global de-indexing order,” where a company such as Google is required to remove sites from across the worldwide web.
The ruling comes as the result of lawsuit from Equustek Solutions, a Vancouver-based manufacturer that designs networking devices which allow industrial equipment made by different manufacturers to communicate with one another. The company’s tech was distributed by Datalink Technologies Gateways, which Equustek has accused of stealing its technology.
Equustek says that Datalink then falsely re-labelled and sold the products as its own, as well as using stolen intellectual to manufacture new products. After being sued, Datalink initially denied the accusations, but later left the province and continued to carry on with business around the world.
Equustek later asked that Google drop Datalink from its search engines, but the company only removed 345 web pages, not Datalink websites. As a result, Datalink could still move “the objectionable content” to new pages within its websites. Moreover, Google only blocked searches on Google.ca, not Google.com or other affiliates.
Ultimately, the court ruled that Google is at least partially to blame for the whole situation. “When non-parties are so involved in the wrongful acts of others that they facilitate the harm, even if they themselves are not guilty of wrongdoing, they can be subject to interlocutory injunctions,” the court said.
According to McCarthy Tetreault lawyer Barry Sookman, these kinds of de-indexing orders could be used to help protect individual’s privacy rights. Specifically, he told The Toronto Star that this may help in cases of cyber-stalking, harassment or defamation, where certain pages online may be spreading information that is harmful to someone’s public image.
At the same time, there is concern that this ruling might set a dangerous precedent going forward. “The Internet is a global phenomenon, and there is great risk that governments and commercial entities will see this ruling as justifying censorship requests that could result in perfectly legal and legitimate content disappearing off the web because of a court order in the opposite corner of the globe,” David Christopher, a spokesman for OpenMedia, told The Star. “That would be a major setback to citizens’ rights to access information and express ourselves freely.”
Source: The Toronto Star