The week both Google and Ripoff Report lost significant cases.
An Australian man, Michael Trkulja, was awarded AUD$200,000 damages (plus interest) in a defamation action against Google this week. This video from the ABC shows Michael discussing his David and Goliath victory:
Google cited two interlocutory decisions in the UK to support their failed non obstante argument that is was not responsible even after it had been notified. These are Metropolitan Schools Ltd v Designtechnica Corpation and Tamiz v Google.
Judge Beach rejected Google’s argument and stated in his judgment
“the question of whether a particular internet service provider might be a publisher in respect of defamatory material published through or via or with the assistance of a particular internet product is “fact sensitive”. The facts in Bunt and Tamiz are substantially different from the facts in the present case – such that the conclusions in those cases give no real assistance to the resolution of the issue in the present case. The facts in Metropolitan Schools (involving a search engine) are more applicable to the present case. That said, it is not possible for me to say whether all of the evidence given in the present case was also presented to Eady J in the interlocutory application that his Lordship was required to determine. Specifically, his Lordship does not appear to have given any consideration to the fact that internet search engines, while operating in an automated fashion from the moment a request is typed into them, operate precisely as intended by those who own them and who provide their services. Additionally, his Lordship appears to have been moved to come to his conclusion in part because of the steps taken in that case by the relevant defendant Google Inc to block the identified URLs. This was a matter which, on the facts in the present case, was not capable of bearing upon the issue of whether there was publication by Google Inc as contended for by the plaintiff”.
The timing of this judgment is quite serendipitous because prior to Michael’s trial, Mr Tamiz was granted leave to appeal to the Full Bench and it will be heard in the first week of December.
According to commentators all over the world the ‘times are a changing:‘
An Australian legal blogger commented: In Silicon Valley, Google’s legal representatives will now be reinventing their business models, acquainting themselves with Australian defamation law and generally wincing, as for what seems to be the first time, a common law court has determined that, for the purposes of defamation, Google can be deemed a publisher of its search engine results.
A media lawyer in the UK stated: Mr Trkulja’s case will now make us all think differently, and his judgment will reverberate around the legal world. Specialist defamation solicitors have repeatedly argued that websites and search engines are publishers, for the same reason that newspapers and magazines are, and therefore should be liable for online defamation they publish.
A journalist wrote in the in the NZ National Business Review: Google is not like someone who just prints or the online equivalent of printing (such as sending out copies of an email to multiple parties).
Ripoff Report attempted to sue a US attorney for allegedly ‘asserting frivolous claims for an improper purpose’ and tortuous interference. Borodkin filed a motion for sanctions against the webmaster, Ed Magedson and his attorney David Gringas (who himself has a bit of a ‘past‘, including an arrest). Of particular interest in Ms Borodkin’s motion is an email from the editor of Ripoff Report, Ed Magedson (p. 10) in which he asks her for $USD100,000 to drop his case.
To be clear,. NO MONEY WOULD BE DEDUCTED for any information on Brewington. Not a dime. The only benefit to you would be, if you do provide information to us that you know would help us with Brewingtons other alleged activities to hurt Ripoff Report and myself.. the only thing that would get you is the following. I would consider settling with you out of court, but, I would require you to stipulate to a judgment for $100,000 as well..
Benefit to you, you would not have to go thru a long court battle. This amount will be much less than what I will be suing for. This is one court battle I will be looking forward to. I will be on a mission to get courts to punish lawyers like you and Blackert. What you did is disgusting, despicable and unforgivable. Courts need to start coming down on lawyers like you as well as prosecutors for misconduct. . . .
What I am offering you will get you to avoid a long drawn out legal battle and will only make you look worse than you already do. You can also start focusing on looking for a job instead of a legal battle. In order to get me to settle out of court with you, you would also need to provide info on things you know John F Brewington did wrong. I know you can help in this area.
You would also need to start, immediately paying on that judgment, $10,000 down and $5,000 a month. If not, I will see you in court.
This week the case against Ms Borodkin was dismissed. Justice may finally be within the reach of victims of what amounts to cyberbullying for profit – at least outside the USA.
Links to further reading on Google’s loss:
From the UK
From the USA
Update on the Google case: December 29th 2012
Despite information provided to media and industry sources Google did NOT appeal Mr Trkulja’s case.
Update to Ripoff Report’s loss:
Ripoff Report filed an amended claim. Clearly they did not learn from their failed attempt to sue a legal blogger for defamation. Their Motion for Leave to Amend Lawsuit Against Attorney Lisa J. Borodkin was dismissed.
The background to Ripoff Report’s ‘claim’
The judge’s decision to dismiss the amended claim