A high profile intellectual property case has ended with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that states that lower courts can now order Google to scrub results from its search engines, not just within Canada but globally.
Those against the decision see the order as a threat to freedom of speech and warn against the potential implications of setting a precedent where any judge, anywhere in the world, can control what appears on Google’s search engine. This raises concerns, and for good reason. What would a ruling like this look like in practice if commonplace? Is it okay to essentially subject the citizens of one country to the laws of another?
The Court, on the other hand, called these fears ‘theoretical,’ with Judge Rosalie Abella writing:
“This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.”
This is precisely the reason why many are also supporting the injunction. It is likely to make it easier for content creators such as record labels to put an end to online piracy.
The case itself involved Equustek Solutions, an industrial gear manufacturer in dispute with a competitor illegally using its trademarks on the internet. The resulting injunction will require Google to remove the competitor’s search results from the entirety of the Internet, and not just Canada.
The conversation around Google removing certain results from search pages has been in the spotlight of late, with courts in the EU issuing an order for the removal of links under the ‘right to be forgotten’ laws.