French court orders Google to censor illegal file sharing words

The entertainment industry always seems to be in limelight for attempts to curb Internet piracy. In this particular situation the battlefield is France with SNEP (a French music industry group) going after Google for ‘facilitating’ file sharing.

The SNEP brought a lawsuit against Google in France looking to force Google to censor file sharing related terms from search results and to hold Google responsible for any file sharing that occurs via links that appear in Google search results. A lower French court rejected SNEP’s demands; however, the French Supreme Court has partially reversed the lower court’s decision and has ordered Google to censor the words ‘torrent’, ‘rapidshare’, and ‘megaupload’ from the Instant and AutoComplete features of Google search. Presumably this censorship is for Google.fr only and not Google.com since the French Supreme Court only has jurisdiction on Google’s operations in France.

It should be noted the French Supreme Court ordered Google to censor the terms from Instant (i.e. how Google shows search results as you type words) and AutoComplete (i.e. how Google attempts to auto complete search terms for you) — not Google search altogether. In other words, the terms themselves won’t be blocked on Google; French users will just have to manually type and enter the search terms if they want to run queries on them.

The court went on to say Google cannot be held responsible for the actions of users since Google itself does not host piracy but rather provides links in its search results to piracy related websites; it is the end user who ultimately makes the decision to go to a website and illegally download and thus Google is not responsible. However, the court says banning the above-mentioned search terms will help make illegal file sharing more difficult.

Google, of course, was disappointed with the ruling releasing the following statement to The Register:

“Google Autocomplete algorithmically returns search queries that are a reflection of the search activity of all web users.

Google takes online copyright very seriously, and we will keep working with content creators in order to help them reach new audiences online and protect against piracy.”

To add salt to the wound, Google already censors piracy related words from AutoComplete but on its own terms. However, there seems to be no rhyme or rhythm to how Google selects words to block and obviously SNEP was not happy with Google’s efforts. For example, as The Register mentions, Google blocks the word ‘BitTorrent’ but not ‘BitComet’ which is a popular torrent client.

[via The Register]

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