Big Content has had a court victory in France and forced Google to censor the word “Torrent”.
Music industry group SNEP asked the French Supreme Court to make sure that Google can be required to censor the search terms ‘Torrent’, ‘RapidShare’ and ‘Megaupload’ from its Instant and Autocomplete services.
Given that Big Content managed to get its sock puppets in the FBI to shut down ‘Megaupload’ the use of that world actually is pure censorship.
But the fact that the French are not allowed to see the world Torrent means that any legal use of the word is forbidden. Practically it means that this article is banned from Google search in France.
According to Torrent Freak, the SNEP lost the case in two lower courts, but the Supreme Court decided in favour of the music group. The Supremes thought that keyword filters were an appropriate measure to stop online piracy.
The case opened up some other cans of worms too for ISPs and search engines. It confirmed that Google indirectly facilitates copyright infringement by failing to filter these terms.
This opens the way for search engines to be sued for piracy unless they do what Big Content says.
The case is now going to the Appeals Court for a final decision.
The war is centred on Google’s “Instant” and “Autocomplete” features.
SNEP argued that when users tap in the the name of a popular beat combo artist into the search box, Google adds piracy related keywords including ‘torrent’, ‘RapidShare’ and ‘MegaUpload’.
That means that Google is facilitating piracy, and it asked the court to order Google to censor the three search terms in question.
The French are a little sensitive when it comes to “autocomplete”. A recent ruling demanded that Google remove the word “Jew” from the function to prevent people searching whether a famous person was Jewish.
Of course the ruling is not actually banning the word “torrent” from searches. You can still do that, you just can’t use the autocomplete. This big court effort will not stop any French person finding the torrent they want.
However, the aim of Big Content might be to slowly set legal precedents where banning the word “torrent” from searches is possible. Once Big Content has its precedent that ISPs are responsible for filtering content, then it can use these to censor whatever files it likes.
The Supreme Court based its verdict on the Intellectual Property code which allows the courts to take almost any emergency measure to protect rightsholders.
* Yesterday Google announced that it earned more than $2.8 billion, during the three months ending in June. That compared with net income of $2.5 billion during the same period last year. Wall Street was told that advertising margins were dropping but the company was still doing rather well. The results were somewhat muddlied by the company buying the loss making Motorola Mobility.