Landmark Canadian supreme court ruling - search engines can be compelled to remove illegal sites from results
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada has today issued a judgment confirming that Canadian courts have the power to compel search engines to take effective action to remove illegal sites from their search results both in Canada and worldwide.
In the case, which was brought by Canadian firm, Equustek, a Canadian court had ordered Google to eliminate from its search results websites that illegally sell goods violating Equustek’s trade secrets. After Equustek won the case in the lower courts, Google appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
Music industry organisations from around world intervened to support Equustek’s case that Google must take on the responsibility to ensure it is not directing users to illegal sites. These included: IFPI, representing the recorded music industry worldwide; Music Canada, representing the Canadian recording industry; WIN, representing the global independent music industry, ICMP, representing music publishers and CISAC, representing authors and composers globally.
In its decision today, the Supreme Court found in favour of Equustek and upheld the lower courts’ decisions ordering Google to remove links to the illegal sites both in Canada and worldwide.
Frances Moore, IFPI CEO, commented on the case: "Canada’s highest court has handed down a decision that is very good news for rights holders both in Canada and around the world. Whilst this was not a music piracy case, search engines play a prominent role in directing users to illegal content online including illegal music sites.
"If the digital economy is to grow to its full potential, online intermediaries, including search engines, must play their part by ensuring that their services are not used to facilitate the infringement of intellectual property rights."
Alison Wenham, WIN CEO added: "This decision represents an important step towards a fair internet for consumers and rights owners. Common sense has finally prevailed."
Coco Carmona, ICMP Director General, commented: "Creators and rights holders are completely dependent on the effective enforcement of intellectual property rights. Search engines, as gatekeepers of the Internet, should play a key role in ensuring that IPR infringements do not occur and this decision from the Canadian Supreme Court recognises this role. ICMP therefore welcomes this ruling and hopes it will help curb online infringement and ultimately help to protect the livelihoods of composers, songwriters, artists and their business partners, in Canada and across the world."
Gadi Oron, Director-General of CISAC, said: "This is an important decision for the creative industries, copyright holders and the digital economy. It serves as a strong reminder that the success of creators in the digital world depends on the responsibility of online intermediaries to deter unlicensed use of creative works. Search engines are the gateway to the online market and as such, should help prevent access to infringing content."
For further information please contact:
John.Blewett@ifpi.org / +44 (0)20 7878 7900
Ariana.Gollogly@ifpi.org / +44 (0)20 7878 7900