updated 08:25 am EST, Wed February 24, 2010
Court says Google Video to blame for users
A Milan, Italy court today found three of four Google executives guilty for allegedly violating Italian privacy code through an upload to Google Video. David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and ex-employee George Reyes were held responsible for a 2006 incident in which Turin students uploaded video of them bullying an autistic student. None of the four, which included Arvind Desikan, were convicted of the direct criminal defamation charges also attached to the case.
Google says it plans to appeal the ruling. It argues that none of the executives were even aware of the video until it was removed and notes that the company took action to help identify the original uploader "within hours" of the clip becoming public.
The company and critics have also strongly objected to the accusations based on safe harbor principles. Google notes that a maintained verdict would render it and any other website legally responsible for any content uploaded no matter how little human observation is possible for new submissions. It also warns that European Union law specifically protects companies until they're made aware of illegal material and hints that Italy could be violating its EU membership terms through the decision.
If sites "are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them -- every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video -- then the Web as we know it will cease to exist," Google wrote. "many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear."
The ruling would also likely have an impact on devices and software. Apps like iMovie, pocket camcorders like the Flip, and phones like the iPhone or most Android devices would likely face significant legal hurdles when used in Italy as Google would need to vet their content.