Google has won a landmark ruling in the UK stating that the search giant is not liable for defamatory comments that appear in news articles, blogs and forums displayed in its search results.
A UK lawsuit filed by distance learning company Metropolitan International Schools claimed that by reproducing defamatory comments that appear in news stories, blogs and forums, Google is liable as a publisher and therefore subject to defamation law.
MIS runs distance learning courses in games development under the name Train2Game. MIS launched legal action over comments on the forum of a website that it claimed were defamatory and that appeared in Google's search results.
The case had significant implications for search engines and other online services which reproduce snippets of content from third-party websites.
However, Justice David Eady, at the High Court in London, said Google cannot "be regarded as a publisher of the words complained of". He described Google as a "facilitator" rather than a publisher of the content.
"Mr Justice Eady made clear if someone feels they have been defamed by material on a website then they should address their complaint to the person who actually wrote and published the material, and not a search engine, which simply provides a searchable index of content on the internet," a Google spokesman told The Guardian.
"This is the first judicial analysis of search engine liability for defamation under UK law and it's undoubtedly a brilliant result for Google and other search engines," said Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer at Pinsent Masons.