The French Supreme Court has ruled that Google should censor the words ‘torrent’, ‘rapidshare’ and ‘megaupload’ from its Instant and Autocomplete search services.
Music industry group SNEP asked the court to stop the terms from coming up in Google’s searches because, it claimed, the Chocolate Factory was thereby facilitating piracy.
A lower court rejected the request from SNEP because it said that these links did not constitute infringement of copyright in and of themselves. However, the Supreme Court has reversed the decision, saying that the relief sought by the group was likely to prevent or partially stop infringements.
“This decision in principle is a first in France, which shows that search engines should participate in the regulation of the internet,” SNEP chief David El Sayegh said in a canned statement.
The Supreme Court said that Google couldn’t be held responsible for people downloading illegal content, since they had to click through to another site and make that decision for themselves, but banning the search terms would make it more difficult for them to find their way to illicit stuff.
Google said it was disappointed by the court's ruling.
"Google Autocomplete algorithmically returns search queries that are a reflection of the search activity of all web users," a spokesperson told The Register in an emailed statement.
"Google takes online copyright very seriously, and we will keep working with content creators in order to help them reach new audiences online and protect against piracy."
The search firm actually already blocks “piracy-related” terms from Autocomplete, but on its own terms. The web giant announced back in December 2010 on one of its blogs that it was taking steps to stop copyright infringement, including blocking search terms closely associated with piracy.
However, as general counsel Kent Walker said at the time, it’s hard to know for sure which terms are being used to find pirated gear and commentators said at the time of the ban that Google seemed to have picked the terms somewhat arbitrarily. For example, while BitTorrent won’t be autocompleted by Google, popular torrent client BitComet will. ®