back to article Google goes home to Cali to overturn Canada's worldwide search result ban

What should govern the behavior of huge multinationals like Google: the law Google makes for itself, or the laws that people make? The former view has been dubbed cyber-libertarianism. In 2015, Canadian judges delivered that particular school of thought a blow, in the case of Equustek Solutions, a network equipment …

  1. TheElder

    So much for the AI concept

    Quote: Google had argued that its search engine machines were dumb and passive beasts.

    1. G2

      Re: So much for the AI concept

      well, tbh they are when considered individually as JUST machines.

      Google runs as a distributed computing cloud, so if you run a program on their system, a particular program instance might start executing on servers in New York but it might get moved mid-execution and end up executing most of the time on servers in London or Frankfurt.

    2. G2

      Re: So much for the AI concept

      P.S. and yes, that sounds much like the Borg Collective. Dumb drones coordinated by a central, distributed hive mind.

      (using Terminator icon because I couldn't find a Borg icon)

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: So much for the AI concept

        yeah well my PCs got 4 cores , any one of which might execute a program. That dosent make it a Wintermute

  2. Number6

    Perhaps they should argue that Equustek should simply sue Datalink for the amount of profit they would have made for each unit sold. That's another way of approaching it, let people rip off your ideas and then extract profits from them. Of course, this assumes that there's money around for this to happen. They could also request a transfer of ownership of all the domains to their control too.

    All sorts of options available for when Google tramples the judgement into the dust.

    1. LewisRage

      If you follow the trail and read about the Datalink issue itself it's that Datalink have gone off the grid, a one man band currently in a location unknown. Suing them for profits isn't viable, I'm guessing going after google to get them de-listed is their path of last resort when everything else has failed.

      1. DJ Smiley

        If they've disappeared, what's the point of making google kill the urls? It doesn't add up.

        Almost like a lawyer somewhere realised they could spin this whole thing out for a couple of years...

      2. Number6

        If they're off grid then taking over the domain names is one option. Someone must have those registered so there's a possible point of contact. If Datalink are still selling then there's a money trail that could be pursued and redirected. One could probably pursue back through the shipping channel with a court order too, to require the carrier to disclose where they collected a package. All possible, provided you've got a legal system that will help you and not obstruct things, which could be problematic depending on the actual location involved.

  3. Mark 85

    Piracy of products (notably most piracy is done in China) is a world-wide problem. For Google not to recognize this and become part of the solution is pure hubris on their part. I would imagine that if someone stole their code or product they would be looking for worldwide protection and redress also.

    If the world changed and China enforced patents/copyrights, etc. and respected intellectual property for other countries, this wouldn't be the problem that it is. But until they do, Google should address the issue from their end. It would be a good start.

    1. Donn Bly

      Extra-territorial control

      This isn't a piracy issue - this is an issue of a country exhibiting extra-territorial control. Canada says that a company operating in another country must do something, or more specifically CEASE from doing something, even though it is legal in that company's home country.

      Lets pay a small game of noun replacement. Instead of company lets call it a person (you). And instead of serving up search results lets call it "drinking beer".

      Should a country such as Saudi Arabia be able to tell you sitting in somewhere in the UK, the US, or ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD that you can't drink beer?

      If they want to do it in their own country, fine, they can go without and leave more for the rest of us - but they don't have any right to tell me or you or anybody else that is outside of their country that they must obey their laws.

      Google excluded the results in the Canadian search engine. That wasn't a problem - they may not have liked it but they complied. But to remove all results worldwide? How about if Saudi Arabia said that Google had to remove all references to "beer", or any business advertising beer, or any search result from any country where beer is served -- from search results worldwide? How about if they passed a law that said that all search results must be returned in Arabic? This is a slippery slope - if you say that Canada has the right to demand compliance even on web sites that aren't Canadian, on search engines that target countries outside of Canada, on servers that aren't in Canada, serving results to people who aren't in Canada (even in languages that aren't even commonly spoken in Canada) -- then every other country has the same right of censorship and what they consider right may not be the same as you.

      Basically, if Canada has the right to tell Google to remove the entries from their non-Canadian search engines and fine them if they don't, then Saudi Arabia has the right to tell you not to drink beer in your own home and to extradite, flog, and imprison you if do.

      1. arthoss

        Re: Extra-territorial control

        yep.that sums it up.

        Google operations should break into country companies and use Google basis as a service. This way only google operations of country X will have to comply.

        1. ratfox

          Re: Extra-territorial control

          Canada isn't the only country who wants to control what Google shows in other countries. France has also asked Google to remove results globally, related to the so-called right to be forgotten. The issue is only going to grow.

        2. LewisRage

          Re: Extra-territorial control

          Won't that screw up their extensive tax fiddles though?

      2. John Lilburne

        Re: Extra-territorial control

        This has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia or any other state that inhabits your fevered imagination. Trading in counterfeit goods is illegal in almost every country in the world including the US.

        1. DJ Smiley

          Re: Extra-territorial control

          China, the most populace country in the world?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Extra-territorial control

          Trading in counterfeit goods is illegal in almost every country in the world including the US.

          This also seems to be the logic behind DMCA takedowns being applied globally, rather than just for the country where the DMCA applies. Though I don't remember Google fighting the extra-territoriality of the DMCA.

          1. Mark 85

            Re: Extra-territorial control

            Though I don't remember Google fighting the extra-territoriality of the DMCA.

            That didn't affect Google's profits.

      3. Christoph

        Re: Extra-territorial control

        Saudi Arabia might also demand the removal of links to obscene content. There are pictures on the web of women with their faces exposed in public - even pictures of women driving cars. Do the Saudis have the right to censor those pictures worldwide?

      4. 's water music

        Re: Extra-territorial control

        @donn bly the distinction that your beer/Saudi analogy fails to capture is that extra territorial judicial rulings are hardly unique and hardly an issue without extra territorial enforcement unless the subject of the judgement wants some sort of quid quo pro with the judicial authority. If Saudi were to issue a judgement forbidding, say, Diageo from beer sales worldwide then Diageo are quite free to say Fuck You unless they also want to sell soft drinks in Saudi in which case the Kingdom has some leverage over them and they face a commercial choice..,

        It is a tricky issue for sure as international law (whether formal or speculative) relies on a combination of custom and practice, community standards and culture but is ultimately underwritten by the threat of force

        1. Donn Bly

          Re: Extra-territorial control

          I fully recognize the distinction, and yes The company has to make a commercial decision. The point is that the company shouldn't have to make such a decision if the "banned' services aren't being offered in the country doing to banning.

      5. DJ Smiley

        Re: Extra-territorial control

        Did you really just compare this to Sharia Law?

      6. Alister

        Re: Extra-territorial control

        This isn't a piracy issue - this is an issue of a country exhibiting extra-territorial control. Canada says that a company operating in another country must do something, or more specifically CEASE from doing something, even though it is legal in that company's home country.

        No, It isn't. Canada are asking that Google stop supporting an illegal counterfeiting operation by linking to their websites. Note that the counterfeiting is illegal globally, not just in Canada.

        Your Saudi Arabia example is a nonsensical strawman.

        1. ratfox

          Re: Extra-territorial control

          Note that the counterfeiting is illegal globally, not just in Canada.

          Maybe, but France is also asking Google to remove results globally, and that's to respect the European right to be forgotten, which does not exist in the rest of the world.

          Google is probably terrified of having such requests escalate to completely trivial things like lèse-majesté laws in Thailand, and that's why they're fighting every lawsuit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US Law wins

    even in Antartica.

    These people should know that by now Doh!

    Anything that can get thre ads revenues up and hang the consequences.

    Just say no to Google.

    Google is getting more like Big Brother every day.

  5. Blotto Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Do no hm?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      13. Do unto others.

      From: The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

  6. katgod

    What if some country decided it wanted to use the name Google and directed all searches to it servers? I suspect Google might have strong feeling about this no matter what country or company decided this was a clever thing to do.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect

    Most nations have mechanisms in place to prevent the disclosure of illegal acts of their governments and members of their governments whether acting illegally in the 'Interests of National Security' and/or criminally in a personal capacity.

  8. Seajay#

    Internet governance

    The article presents this as if the EFF and free speech advocates are being subverted to benefit Google's commercial interests. But Google doesn't have any commercial interest in listing search results for Datalink, and complying with the injunction wasn't going to cost them anything significant anyway. So what's really happening is that Google's giant commercial legal budget is being subverted to benefit the EFF and free speech advocates. That seems fine to me.

    Whether EFF / Google are right on this issue is another matter but they certainly make a point worth listening to. What should Google do when China tells them to remove references to Tienanmen Square from their search results worldwide? This case is very different of course but the wider question of who controls the internet is one that's definitely worth highlighting. It seems to be a choice between:

    1) Everyone. Let any country demand censorship and if it passes through a local court anywhere implement it everywhere.

    2) No-one. Let's have free speech on the internet.

    3) USA. There's a danger that this becomes the de facto answer if we don't explicitly prevent it.

    4) UN / ICC. The requirement to get agreement from all countries means that probably the only thing banned will be child porn.

    5) Everyone but only locally. Ie the Canadian court shouldn't tell google to remove the links to the infringing domains, they should tell Canadian ISPs to blacklist them.

    I'd like 2 or 4 but most governments are far too keen to 'protect' their citizens to allow that. 1 seems like the worst option, closely followed by 3. That seems to leave 5 which is what we have in the UK to protect us from being corrupted by thepiratebay. That seems like a perfectly acceptable compromise. I'm glad that Google are trying to steer the world away from 1 and towards 5.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Internet governance

      One thing: "free speech" is the right to call the head of your particular government a sack of shit without them sending the police to your house in the middle of the night to spirit you away to a salt mine. It's a right of free expression, without threat of government reprisal. It is not a carte blanche to say whatever you want to whomever you want without having to deal with the consequences. If you call the guy in the bar a sack of shit, and he rightly punches you in the face for the insult, "free speech" is not a valid defence for your provocation.

      A second example, which seems to be a problematical topic for the EFF and Google: if you "find" a movie/book/router design that someone else made online and you then make it available to other people as if you had been the given the right to do so by its owner, that's not "free speech" either: it's fraud, just as if I found a roll of ticket paper and used it to try to sell fake subway tickets.

      Ultimately, all this "internet freedom" talk is just so much diversionary hogwash. Bluntly, Google doesn't want to police its index because it's an expensive thing to do, and as a monopoly, Google gains no value from efforts like this to make its product "better". Pretty much everyone already has to advertise via Google now, so any investment that doesn't directly shore up that monopoly is wasted spending. Every monopoly behaves like this eventually, and that, in a nutshell, is why monopolies are so bad for customers...

      1. Seajay#

        Re: Internet governance

        I'm not for a second arguing that what Datalink is doing is fine. I absolutely think that they should be stopped. Ideally I think that they should be stopped by a cease and desist order against them followed by a lawsuit against them. Stopping them via a lawsuit against Google seems odd to me but it has been approved by a Canadian court so I'm happy with that and I don't think that stopping them infringes free speech.

        The only aspect of this decision that I'm not happy with is that a Canadian court has decided that they are legitimately able to rule on what search results Google Ireland may serve from their servers running in Ireland to an Irish user in Ireland. How is that any of Canada's business? In this instance the ruling is a sensible and harmless one but once you accept that principle why can't an Irish court decide that the "right to be forgotten" rules now apply to Canadian Googlers?

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Presumably the issue for a US court is the challenge of some other country trying to apply its jurisdiction world-side. Equustek should get an injunction in the US where unchallenged world-wide jurisdiction is assumed.

  10. sitta_europea Silver badge

    I fucking hate Google.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny how these same people that are for what Canada is doing are Against the US in the MS email spat.

    1. Alister

      Funny how these same people that are for what Canada is doing are Against the US in the MS email spat.

      Not at all, the cases are completely different. In the MS Email case, the US Justice Department is trying to circumvent existing international agreements on access to data held overseas, by leaning on Microsoft.

      In the other case, Canada is asking that a seller of counterfeit products (which is illegal in both Canada and the US) be blocked from advertising their wares through Google links.

      Imagine if it was the other way round, and Datalink were a Canadian company, advertising counterfeit copies of a US company's products. Would there be any outcry in the US if Google removed their links to Datalink sites globally?

      1. kain preacher

        In the other case, Canada is asking that a seller of counterfeit products (which is illegal in both Canada and the US) be blocked from advertising their wares through Google links.

        The you would before the extradition of some in the UK that hacked some in the US since both are illegal in both countries. If not why.

        1. Alister

          Then you would be for the extradition of someone in the UK that hacked someone in the US since both are illegal in both countries. If not why.

          No I wouldn't. As hacking is illegal in both countries, and the act took place in the UK (even if it was a US person that was hacked) then the UK should prosecute the offender under their own laws. This is not the same as the above case at all.

          As I previously posted. If a US company made a product, and a Canadian company started selling counterfeit copies through Canadian websites, do you think that the US would be happy to just remove the links to those sites in the US, meaning that the rest of the world would still see them, and be able to buy the counterfeits?

  12. LewisRage

    At some point a tech company is going to simply pull out of a territory

    At some point we are surely going to see an organisation like Google simply pull all operations out of a territory during a dispute like this.

    Canada is almost certainly too big a revenue source and the dispute too small to warrant it here but I imagine that at some point a state will push one of those massive corporations too far, and the corporation will simply choose to deprive that states population their services.

    I'd like to see if Canada would capitulate when Google simply blocked it's search functions from being accessed by Canadian citizens. Perhaps people would learn to use Bing and it would backfire but I suspect that the reality is that the uproar would make it very difficult for the judiciary (and the politicians who would be on the hook to the voters).

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: At some point a tech company is going to simply pull out of a territory

      I'm not convinced that anyone would care that much if Google left their territory, and blocked use of Google services within that territory. There are alternatives. And it would be a golden opportunity for a home player to get into the market.

      The company is that might do very well is Apple. Android is all about Google and its acquisitiveness and its integration with Google's ecosystem. Google might cut that off, it costs them money to provide the services for that phone. Bye bye Android. Apple have thus far avoided becoming an ad funded freetard OTT service provider, so I can't see them getting into a similar position. Their phones might be the only game in town.

  13. deive

    This is a nasty one; you can see if there is some clear reason like this blatant rip-off that they need to be globally blocked (anyone from any country can access any specific google site).

    However, imagine if (for example) China decided that Google have to block all the things they are blocking internally all around the world... I really don't want lowest common denominator deciding what I can and can't see.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      You have illustrated the fundamental contradiction in the User Requirements for the Internet:

      1) Allow good people to use the Internet for whatever they want.

      2) Stop bad people using the Internet for whatever they want.

      The problem is that there are different views on who is good and who is bad. It encompasses everything from religion, politics, law and order, social attitudes and geo-politics. That lot isn't going to be resolved any time soon...

      In a way the global OTT tech companies like Google have been pretending that these problems don't exist, but really they do.

  14. RyokuMas

    But do they care?

    "Google would be in contempt of Canadian court if it resists Equustek's injunction, resulting in fines or other sanctions. It must know this, surely?"

    I'm sure they do. But do they give one iota of a shit? Probably not.

    After all, what could the (inter)national courts do? Impose a fine? Chances are that Google/Alphabet with just laugh in their faces and carry on increasing profits, possibly using some of said profits for lobbying to try and change the law in their favour.

    And of course, if the fine is too big, while the appeal process is going through, they could quite easily manipulate search results to undermine those trying to hold them to account. We hear it all the time: "oh no, Daily Mail, right-wing racists! oh no, the Guardian, leftie-hand-wringers!" - who is Google biased towards? Just like everyone who holds power, they are biased towards themselves and themselves alone.

    Information is power, and when it comes to the web, Google Search pretty much has worldwide dominance on controlling the flow of information. And the greatest tragedy is that we, the IT savvy, have largely been suckered by Google - not so much by the lure of free stuff, but by letting ourselves be manipulated through old, out-of-date grudges and the promise of "openness".

    Either Google needs to be broken up into its component parts and watchdogged in order to ensure that their anti-competitive behaviour (and tax evasion) is curtailed, or all of its assets seized and transferred to an independent international consortium that answers to world governments.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: But do they care?

      Google have already unwittingly been involved in throwing an election; their unmoderated trend driven auto news service got comprehensively hijacked during the last US election, seemingly by bunches of kids in Eastern Europe somewhere who were simply boosting their ad revenue.

      Google's entire business is based largely on not having to be accountable for the content of some of their services, like search, YouTube. This position is slowly being eroded. It's understandable why they'd want to resist that, but it's beginning to look like a lost cause. I think that the sooner they start seriously thinking of ways to change their business mode, the better it will be for their long term future.

  15. Elfo74

    google = thepiratebay

    Both are search engines that link to illegal content, without directly profiting from it, and laugh in the face of law.

    I wish thepiratebay had google's money :(

  16. aphexbr

    "The granting of the injunction [in 2014] was the only practical way for the defendants' websites to be made inaccessible."

    The websites are still accessible, you utter moron. Delisting on Google does nothing to change that.

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Delisting on Google does nothing to change that

      Actually yes it does. For a very large proportion of internet users, Google results == the internet.

      So what this means is that a user searching Google for the counterfeit products, they won't get any results linking to the vendor's sites. That means, to all intents, for a user searching on Google, those sites do not exist - and hence the products aren't available. Presumably if they already know the domain name then that's not a problem, but without finding them first, how will they know that they exist AND what the URL is ?

      They could switch to another search engine, but many people don't know how to do that. Also, I assume that if Bing is still linking, then they will be next - or perhaps they voluntarily delisted the sites in the name of not supporting piracy ?

      1. aphexbr

        I understand that, but it still does nothing to affect the accessibility of the site as the judge claimed. It makes it a little harder to stumble across, but unless the actual site is taken down people can still access it. It's like saying that you've made the dodgy stall down the market inaccessible because you stopped them advertising in the local paper rather than actually getting it removed from the market.

        "without finding them first, how will they know that they exist AND what the URL is ?"

        Links from other sites / emails / etc. I highly doubt that a successful scam site relied solely on people stumbling across it on Google, and even if they did they're bound to have altered their tactics while this fight was going on. At best, they've removed one of many traffic sources, and it might not even have been their primary one.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a tricky situation, but....

    Google's motto may be "Do no evil." But Google effectively acts on this "corollary": "What Google does is not evil."

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like