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Google Fighting Freedom of Press in Spain, Getting Fined in France

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A French court fined Google 430,000 Euros for four breaches of copyright, while the Spanish courts are considering referring a 'right to be forgotten' case involving 80 instances to the European Court of Justice.

"We're pleased that the [Spanish] court is considering asking guidance from Europe's top court on whether Spain's [data-protection agency] has overridden European law. It shows that key issues are at stake," Peter Barron, Google's head of European external relations, said in a statement," the Wall Street Journal reported.

While the fines in France have their own implications of what Google has to do about policing uploads of video or photography or any form of proprietary media, it is the question of whether people can have historically reported information about them removed from the internet - though in the case of Google it would be removed from the index of published information.

There have been calls for defamatory information - untrue information that seems to have a shelf life like no other - to be removed from the web - but few countries have specific legislation supporting that perspective. Instead, the United States has the DCMA which protects it and it now passes to the European Union's Court of Justice to consider how any older information.

If it determines that false information should be removed there would be a need for some agency to determine the accuracy or everyone could filter any information they do not want on the web - things the world possibly should know.

The instance in the Spanish case that has received the most attention involves a plastic surgeon and newspaper article about him being in court for a botched job that apparently was eventually dismissed. His cry for removal is the cause celeb of the movement growing "in parts of Europe to create a "right to be forgotten," which would let individuals excise personal information from the Web on privacy grounds. The European Commission, as part of its data-protection overhaul, has proposed recognizing such a right. France's Senate has also approved similar proposals, which have yet to be ratified by the National Assembly.

Though freedom-of-expression provisions of Spanish law protect newspapers, legal gazettes and other publishers from government censors, the Spanish data regulator contends the protections don't extend to Internet search engines like Google," the Wall Street Journal reported..

Google is just the very quick media resource center of the library - it is the actual sources of the information that should be the determining factor of inclusion. How the Europeans respond to this challenge could have an enormous effect on the web moving forward.

The plastic surgeon, like many people complaining about reputation management issues, wants the offending article off the front page of the Google search results - on its merits now inaccurate but true if date stamped - very misleading if not.

Despite this and the fines given out in France - the sum equals about 10 peoples' salaries who could never deal with the millions of newly uploaded information hourly - the challenge is going to be filtering by country and laws.

Google could revert to an old method of response, block it all. When online gambling became illegal in the United States, Google took ads down globally. If rules come in will they use the same approach? Or provide different filters as they did in China.


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