Google successfully argued on Wednesday, in an alleged defamation action, that an internet search engine is not necessarily a publisher of material produced from a search.
The Applicant sought orders from the Victorian Court of Appeal that certain pleadings in Google’s defence be struck out (the case is called Defteros v Google Inc).
Because they were contrary to the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court decision in Google Inc v Duffy, and by extension the High Court decision in Farah Constructions v Say-Dee.
In Duffy, the Court concluded that, “on the evidence called at trial, Google was a publisher of the results of searches performed by the use of its search engine.”
In Defteros, the Court said that:
- the issue of being a publisher or not is still a mixed question of law and fact;
- Duffy was decided on the evidence presented in that trial and there is no rule of law preventing Google from leading fresh evidence in fresh but separate trial, as it intended to do here; and
- Courts are not bound by Duffy.
This is a timely reminder that defamation actions are serious matters that can’t be run lightly on a mistaken belief that Duffy has done all of the hard work for you.