The blurred line between law and the Internet comes into focus in German Google case

The blurred line between law and the Internet comes into focus in German Google case

The messy intersection between law and the Internet has become an issue in a case currently under way in Germany’s top civil court.

As Bloomberg reports, a German individual is suing Google over a statement made in a blog post hosted on the search giant’s domain. The post alleged that this individual used a business credit card to pay for ‘sex club bills’ on the Spanish island of Mallorca, where he lived.

The unidentified plaintiff wants a ruling that forces Google to ensure that the defamatory statements won’t be repeated on its blogspot domain. Google has already lost in two lower courts over the issue.

So we’ve got a blog post hosted on US company Google’s servers (presumably also in America), about an alleged incident in Spain, being heard in a German court. Google is asking for the case to be heard under US law, which is often less strict on such matters than German law.

Where should the case be heard? In Spain, where the alleged incident took place? In Germany, the country of origin of the plaintiff? Or in California, where Google is based?

A ruling on the issue is expected today, but it demonstrates yet again just how difficult it can be for courts to deal with legislation regarding the Internet, as borne out by many other examples such as the recent suggestion that Britons accused of Internet piracy should be extradited to the US on pretty flimsy-sounding grounds, and the case of hacker Gary McKinnon who is fighting a long-running battle to avoid extradition to face trial in the US.

Whether courts around the world will ever find a solution to the problem of global companies and globally-acting indivduals interacting in a world that still has national borders and geographic jurisdictions, we can’t say, but sometimes it feels like a ‘global court of the Internet’ would make life a lot easier for everyone. Whether that could ever be a practical reality is another question.

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