A lower-court judge “found that the Underworld article conveyed a defamatory imputation, namely that the respondent had crossed the line from being a professional solicitor to being a confidant and friend of criminal elements,” today’s ruling noted. Lower courts decided that Google “published the defamatory matter because the provision of the Search Result was instrumental to the communication of the content of the Underworld article to the user, in that it lent assistance to its publication,” according to a summary of today’s ruling (PDF) provided by the High Court of Australia. Google had been ordered to pay Defteros $40,000 (about $27,710 in USD). But in reversing lower-court rulings, a 5-2 majority of the High Court found that Google did not publish the defamatory matter.
Google “did not lend assistance to The Age in communicating the defamatory matter contained in the Underworld article” because the “provision of a hyperlink in the Search Result merely facilitated access to the Underworld article and was not an act of participation in the bilateral process of communicating the contents of that article to a third party,” the summary of the ruling said. “There was no other basis for finding publication because the appellant had not participated in the writing or disseminating of the defamatory matter.” […] Today’s ruling could have been different if Google had been paid to promote The Age article. The appeal “does not present the occasion to consider whether the conclusion would be different in respect of those hyperlinks that, by agreement with a third party, are promoted by the appellant following a search request,” the ruling said. “Nor was any issue raised on this appeal about any service provided in the aggregation of news results. It suffices to say that it is arguable that the appellant and a third party might share a common intention to publish the content of a third-party webpage that, as a consequence of an agreement between the appellant and the third party, is promoted as a search result.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.