Italian court holds Yahoo liable for infringing search results

Smaller search engines specializing in torrents and video streaming have come under fire recently for promoting copyright infringement, but the major search engines have escaped most of the legal controversy until now.

Yahoo, the internet’s second largest search engine by volume, has been ordered by the 9th Division of the Court of Rome to remove links within search results which lead to pirated copies of the Iranian film About Elly.

Italian court holds Yahoo liable for infringing search results

According to a report by PC World, Yahoo has been held liable for contributing to the copyright infringement associated with unauthorized copies of the film posted online because the search firm did not immediately remove links after being notified of the issue. European law spells out that service providers are required to remove such content, however it does not specify how quickly such action must occur.

Yahoo officials have stated that they are “deeply disappointed” in the Italian court’s ruling.

“We believe this case mistakenly focuses on search engines instead of on the creators of the offending content,” company officials said in a statement regarding the ruling. “We believe this decision, contrary to existing legal principles, potentially seeks to force search engine companies to proactively monitor third party content on the web, and could have the potential impact of potentially stifling free expression on the Internet.”

Intellectual property law firm DLAPiper posted two reasons why this decision matters in the grand scheme of things concerning copyright infringement and search engines:

  • This approach might oblige search engines to remove the access to contents following a mere notice from the alleged right holder; and
  • It extends the removal obligation not only to the links to the websites providing the unlawful contents, but also to other websites performing lawful activities, but containing links to such unlawful websites.

I firmly believe that courts and agencies leading these types of investigations need to focus more on eliminating the roots of infringing content rather than punishing the search engines and other websites that link to the files. If we allow this type of search censorship to begin it could quickly get out of hand.