The IP Court of Florence has issued a significant decision on the liability of search engines and the circumstances in which they are obliged to remove infringing material. The case related to a dispute which arose when an entrepreneur found that a website was displaying photographs of him without his permission, together with defamatory comments about his company. As the webmaster of the website on which the information appeared could not be identified, the entepreneur asked Google to remove the website from its search results. When Google refused to do so, he brought a claim against the company.

The court held that no illegal conduct had taken place, as the pictures had been taken in public and the information was not being exploited for economic gain. However, the most significant aspect of the decision concerns the fact that Google was identified as a caching provider and, as such, was not obliged to remove infringing material without a court order; notice from a party which alleged that its rights had been infringed would be insufficient.

The court's view of Google as a caching provider reflects the conclusion reached in the recent Yahoo! case, albeit that this view had different outcomes for the two search engines in question (for further details please see "Relief for ISPs as Court of Appeal overturns Yahoo! Italia decision"). Moreover, the interpretation of the limited circumstances in which a search engine is obliged to remove infringing material follows a completely different approach from that applied in the recent YouTube cases (for further details please see "User-generated content and liability: have ISPs' problems just got bigger?").

For further information on this topic please contact Giulio Coraggio at DLA Piper Italy by telephone (+39 02 80 61 81), fax (+39 02 80 61 82 01) or email ([email protected]).