Google is no stranger to the courts – when you are as big, powerful and rich as they are, people and companies come gunning for you. However, this latest court ruling in Canada is nothing like when they were caught ‘data mining‘ students’ Gmail accounts or giving information to the NSA. This is an unprecedented ruling where Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon in a B.C. Supreme Court ordered Google Inc. to block a group of websites from its worldwide search engine. Google argued, of course, that the Canadian court had no jurisdiction over telling the California based company what they could or could not post on the web.
This all started when a Burnaby, B.C. based company, Equustek Solutions Inc., which makes and sells industrial internet equipment, accused a group of former employees of stealing their trade secrets, manufacturing competing devices and selling them on the internet. The courts are asking Google to prevent their search engines from bring up these offending sites. Google would have no trouble blocking them on Google.ca, but most of the sales are international and would require that Google shut it down all over the globe. The Justice Fenton decided that the B.C. court does have jurisdiction over Google and wrote, “Google is an innocent bystander but it is unwittingly facilitating the defendants’ ongoing breaches of this Court’s orders. The Court must adapt to the reality of e-commerce with its potential for abuse by those who would take the property of others and sell it through the borderless electronic web of the internet.”
Not only Canadian courts, but others as well, keep extending their rulings and reach beyond their borders. Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor blasted the recent ruling by says this could lead to other countries censoring content on the web. He says, “While the court does not grapple with this possibility, what happens if a Russian court orders Google to remove gay and lesbian sites from its database? Or if Iran orders it remove Israeli sites from the database? That seems to be to be a very dangerous overreach.”
Robert Fleming, the lawyer for the Vancouver plaintiffs claims that the courts would never be able to do what professor Geist is suggesting and what the B.C. court rules has nothing to do with free speech. Mr. Fleming says that the main defendant never shows up for the hearings and has essentially “disappeared,” while his websites continue to operate. He stated that “Things happen so quickly and on the Internet they are so borderless, the courts have to be able to adapt.”