Does Italy Really Want Search Engines? Recent Legal Rulings Suggest Not

Google and Yahoo have felt the sting of the Italian courts recently and the numerous problems the engines seem to be having in the country almost suggests search engines are not welcome. Or maybe the search engines will just decide the effort is not worth the return and filter Italy like Google did to the search results in China.

Google was found liable for defamation of a person from their autocomplete - which is a reflection of what people are searching for, but as the case stated, Google had already filtered the autocomplete for copyright terms - so the court determined they could filter these too.

Meanwhile, Yahoo was found guilty of distributing a movie without authorization by linking to the site that was doing the distribution. "As for the reasoning behind the decision, it seems to focus on a stretch of an interpretation of the EU's E-Commerce Directive, which indicates that a "caching provider" has to block links to content once notified that it's infringing. While the coverage is a bit unclear, it sounds like this is more difficult than a US-style DMCA notice-and-takedown regime, in that it appears that upon notice that some content is infringing, Yahoo isn't supposed to just take down that particular link, but all links that can reach that content," TechDirt explained.

Previously, three Google executives were found guilty of privacy violations for not taking down a video from YouTube that made derogatory statements about an autistic child.

The Italian courts seem to think that every engine is responsible for vetting each entry as they are indexed. This is not a mechanical tweak - the type of control the Italian government requires engines to observe would mean a lot of man hours and realistically would make the process untenable.

It seems to be getting hard to run a search engine - but hey it is a tens of billions of dollars industry, I am sure something will be worked out.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.