Vancouver, Canada - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a brief with the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Canada on Monday weighing in on a ruling that Google must block certain entire websites from its search results around the world.
EFF intervened in Equustek Solutions v. Morgan Jack after a trial court ruled in June that Google must remove links to full websites that contained pages selling a product that allegedly infringed trade secret rights. The injunction not only applied to Google's Canada-specific search, Google.ca, but to all of its searches around the world. Google had offered to remove 345 URLs but would not block the entire category of websites, because they contained pages that "may be used for any number of innocent purposes."
Such a broad injunction sets a dangerous precedent, especially where the injunction is likely to conflict with the laws of other nations. In its brief, EFF explains how the trial court's injunction decision would have likely violated the U.S. Constitution and constituted an improper "mandatory injunction" under case law in California, where Google is based. By blocking entire websites, Canadian courts potentially censor innocent content that U.S. Internet users have a constitutional right to receive.
"The scope of the Canadian court's order could chill speech across the Internet," EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri said. "If a Canadian court is able to block search results around the world, it sets a precedent that nations with authoritarian restrictions on speech can also impose their own rules on the global Internet."
"We hope the court considers how the ruling affects the public interest in free expression," EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry said. "No single country should have veto power over Internet speech."
EFF filed the brief with the assistance of pro bono counsel David Wotherspoon of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, LLP. The appeal will be argued over three days in the last week of October.
For the filing:
Electronic Frontier Foundation