On June 28, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada by a vote of 7-2 delivered a verdict
in the case of Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc.
, which was closely followed by human rights activists around the world, because this case could create another dangerous precedent. So it happened.
Equustek Solutions is a manufacturer of industrial network equipment that is trying to prevent a competitor from using a trademark in bad faith. Therefore, the company sued Google, demanding to remove from the search results links to counterfeit goods that are sold under its brand name.
The court found the plaintiff to be right and ruled Google to filter search results not only in Canada, but throughout the world
. Thus, Canada joined the number of countries that consider themselves entitled to make decisions for the whole world.
Google presented its arguments. According to the search company and human rights organizations, this decision will become a dangerous precedent and threaten the freedom of speech. If other courts follow the example of Canada, then the court of some Muhosransk can in the same way demand to filter Google search results about some local official not only in Russia, but throughout the world. Approximately the same legal disputes are now going on in Europe, where laws on the “right to be forgotten” are in force - and the courts are demanding that Google search results be filtered out worldwide.
Even China does not allow it. The Chinese version of Google is heavily filtered by requests sensitive to the Communist Party, but these filters are valid, of course, only in China, and not worldwide.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada called the fabrications of Google and human rights activists about the potential threat to freedom of speech "theoretical." Judge Rosalie Abella pointed out in the motivation part: “This is not an order to delete statements that, at first glance, have to do with the values of freedom of expression, but this is an order to de-index websites whose violations are recognized by several court orders. By now, we have not recognized that freedom of expression requires the simplification of the illegal sale of goods. ”
Violations by rivals Equustek Solutions are really obvious, they sell counterfeit goods on behalf of another company. The question is whether a Canadian court has the right to require filtering search results worldwide, does its jurisdiction extend to all countries?
In explaining its decision, the court also explained that its decision constituted a temporary injunction, and the provision on filtering the issue throughout the world could be postponed until the relevant dispute over intellectual property is resolved. But the judges who voted against the decision expressed their opinion that the temporary nature of the injunction is a “fiction”, and Equustek Solutions will adhere to the temporary solution and de facto make it permanent.
Responding to a Canadian court ruling, Google representatives said
they would carefully examine this decision and, depending on this, consider their next steps.
At the same time, many representatives of the IT industry have expressed concerns that this precedent could create a new wave of Internet censorship in the style of the memorable law SOPA.
All countries of the world have their own peculiarities of legislation. Germany has tough legislation against hate speech on the Internet. Blasphemy is forbidden in Thailand. In some countries, Nazi and communist symbols are prohibited. A global company like Google is forced to adapt to these features in each country, but if it is forced to filter search results on a global scale, the consequences of such international censorship can be unpredictable. Now we see that the Canadian court was not satisfied with the filtering of the issue only on the local version of the search engine Google.ca, but requires filtering the international version of Google.com.
And Canada is not the only country that considers the right to extend the jurisdiction of its court to the whole world. The courts of the United States have repeatedly allowed themselves, and recently the European courts have begun to do so in the framework of the already mentioned cases of the “right to be forgotten”. For example, in June 2015, the French authorities decided
that Google is obliged to exercise the “right to be forgotten” by filtering search results worldwide, and not just on Google.fr.
Although human rights defenders and IT companies expressed their fears about the Canadian verdict, some organizations welcomed it - these are the so-called “copyrights”. For example, the association of the main Canadian recording studios, Music Canada, in an official statement called the global injunction around the world “a vital tool for combating illegal activities online and ensuring the rights of authors”.
In a global sense, these trials in the United States, Canada and Europe show the vague nature of the jurisdiction of the courts and the national borders of states as applied to the Internet. It is very difficult to provide a uniform service to citizens of different countries, if they obey different national laws that differ from each other.