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French courts want to muzzle Google autocomplete to combat piracy

19 Jul 2012
Google logo (Robert Scoble Flickr)

Google may soon be forced to remove terms like torrent and Megaupload from its autocomplete search services, following a ruling from the French Supreme Court, according to Torrent Freak.

The ruling comes in the midst of a heated legal battle between Google and French music industry group SNEP.

SNEP accused Google of implicitly encouraging copyright violations by not filtering piracy-related terms from its autocomplete functions. This means the names of established musicians appeared alongside terms such as 'torrent', the SNEP argued.

Google has already started removing URLs, noting in its May in its Transparency Report that it has deleted links to millions of URLs that allegedly host copyrighted or pirated material.

The current case brought by SNEP is moving to the Court of Appeal for a final ruling.

Lawyer at international law firm Pinsent Masons, Luke Scanlon, has suggested that if approved the ruling may set a dangerous precedent.

"The question is one of balance and degree. How many hoops can a court require an online service provider to jump through in order to assist in preventing IP infringements?" Scanlon told V3.

"It would appear that forcing Google to monitor by automated means all search queries for the word 'torrent' would go beyond what is permissible by the European Directives.

"Torrent files are a form of innovative technology that can be used for both legal and illegal purposes. An order gagging Google from ever using the word 'torrent' would go too far and unduly restrict the free use of information."

The ruling comes as a part of global debate regarding how countries should enforce copyright policies, which has seen the US authorities demand the extradition of several file sharing services' founders.

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Alastair Stevenson
About

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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