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May 18, 2006

Google Lawsuit: New beta?

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No, it’s just the new Google way of life. Proving suing ‘the man’ isn’t just an ugly American trait, the blogosphere is reporting two new International Google lawsuits. Fun, right?

The first group taking aim at Google are the folks behind the Belgium IT company ServersCheck. The company has taken issue with the engine’s Google Suggest feature that inadvertently ‘suggests’ illegal, ‘cracked’ or keygen versions of ServersCheck software. The Belgium-based company is calling for Google to strip out suggestions that might lead illegal download sites. When Google refused to do so, ServersCheck filed suit against them in a Belgian court.

The case was originally introduced in Leuven, Belgium three months ago, according to a ServersCheck press release. Google claims they are unable to adjust the Google Suggest technology to meet the company’s request, but has offered to remove sites that offer the illegal versions.

Could Google meet ServersCheck request? Absolutely. After all, they already adjust results for sexually-related keywords. For example, typing in “se” or “por” skips right over anything that would be considered inappropriate content. Clearly they could do it if they wanted to. But is it Google’s job to filter out content leading to illegal downloads. I don’t think so and they probably don’t want to break that dam. Think all of the companies that would start petitioning to have their anti-‘brand x ‘sites removed.

Google says they will do their best to remove the sites that offer the illegal versions of software, and really, that’s all they are required to do. Google’s job is to control the quality of sites in their index (which is why we get so outraged when they don’t!), they can’t control or influence what users are searching for. It’s simply not their job, nor should it be. The folks at ServersCheck say Google is contributing to the piracy of their product and fear it will only continue to hurt them in the future. What do you say: Legitimate concern or an easy ploy to get media attention? No comment here.

Next up for Google, Brazil’s Attorney General wants charges filed against Google Brazil, who he says is responsible for the distribution of child pornography and racist materials created by users of the social site Orkut. Google, Inc. was ordered to hand over information regarding the origination of the material, but because Google is not Yahoo, they declined. The court order may have received more weight if it had been handed to United States Google, since Orkut is hosted in the US, not Brazil. The attorney general is asking a federal judge to authorize a full police investigation into Google’s Brazilian unit — again, not hosted in Brazil.

This whole suit confuses me. Why are they suing Google? There is no way you can fault Google for what appears on a social networking site, even if it is technically Google-owned. It would be like starting a suit over an offensive post originating from Blogger. The content authors are responsible for what they write, not Google. All Google can do is enforce the rules set out in their terms agreement.

And perhaps a better question: Why is Marissa Mayer on the Orkut front page? That sure looks a lot like her Google press photo to me.

You have to respect Google for not backing down under the pressure of legal threats, especially when these cases have very little legal merit.

One other thing, I hope both groups remembered to file in California.

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