By Davis Doherty
Google Executives Answer for the Sins of Their Users in Italy
PCWorld reports that on Feburary 24, an Italian court convicted three Google executives for violating privacy laws, handing down six-month suspended sentences to each. The ruling arose after a video depicting the bullying of a boy with Down Syndrome was posted to Google Video Italia; Google removed the clip within hours of receiving a complaint from the Italian police, two months after it was first uploaded. Under Italian law, Internet content providers, but not Internet service providers, may be held liable as publishers of user-generated content.
Ars Technica reports on criticism that the decision strikes a blow to Internet freedom. As the New York Times explains, some observers connect the conviction to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s interest in seeing a potential competitor to his media monopoly hindered. The executives plan on appealing the decision.
Businesses Give Yelp a Negative Review, File Class Action
Two class action law firms filed a lawsuit against Yelp Inc. on February 23 on behalf of a nationwide class of small businesses. The plaintiffs allege that Yelp, whose website allows users to post reviews of local businesses, “runs an extortion scheme in which the company’s employees call businesses demanding monthly payments, in the guise of ’advertising contracts,’ in exchange for removing or modifying negative reviews appearing on the website.” The WSJ Law Blog discusses the complaint, and the Bits Blog at the New York Times provides a response from Yelp. The case, Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital Inc. v. Yelp Inc., is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Strike One for ACTA?
On February 21, BoingBoing and Computerworld reported on the alleged leak of a draft chapter from the secretive negotiations surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (“ACTA”). Included in the alleged draft is a call for ACTA signatories to establish third party liability for infringement of intellectual property rights, which would allow rights-holders to bring suit against an Internet service provider who “knowingly and materially” aids infringement. The document calls for a requirement that ISPs implement user policies along the lines of a “three strikes rule,” which allows a provider to terminate a user’s Internet access after sending two warning letters. The European Commission expressed opposition to any agreement that would create an obligation to disconnect users.