Canada's Supreme Court says America's Hat has authority over Google results worldwide – at least in cases when someone's copyright has been stomped on.
The Great White North's top legal bench, ruling in a copyright infringement dustup today, has ordered the California ads giant to remove from search results links to websites that sell certain knockoff goods. Essentially, the Supreme Court insists it can dictate which stuff the Mountain View internet goliath can and can't link to.
The judgment [PDF] was handed down in a row between Google and Equustek Solutions, which claims Google is helping other merchants tout counterfeit replicates of its networking gear.
Equustek said Google was not doing enough to keep ripoff gear from showing up in search results and is thus killing Equustek's sales. Google, we're told, took down various links to the offending knockoffs from its web search results shown in Canada. Equustek wanted these redactions rolled out globally.
Now the biz has got its wish: Canada's top court has decided that Equustek's injunction against Google, in this case applying to British Columbia, should be enforced internationally.
That means the supremes want all the offending copyright-trampling links stripped from Google's search engines everywhere, arguing that it's reasonable to ask the American biz to do so. Crucially, Google couldn't, or hasn't, argued against that.
"Google's argument that a global injunction violates international comity because it is possible that the order could not have been obtained in a foreign jurisdiction, or that to comply with it would result in Google violating the laws of that jurisdiction, is theoretical," the Canadian court said.
"If Google has evidence that complying with such an injunction would require it to violate the laws of another jurisdiction, including interfering with freedom of expression, it is always free to apply to the British Columbia courts to vary the interlocutory order accordingly. To date, Google has made no such application."
The ruling also confirms that Google should be held accountable to Canada's copyright laws everywhere.
"Injunctive relief can be ordered against someone who is not a party to the underlying lawsuit. When non‑parties are so involved in the wrongful acts of others that they facilitate the harm, even if they themselves are not guilty of wrongdoing, they can be subject to interlocutory injunctions," the Supreme Court rules.
"It is common ground that [the defendant] was unable to carry on business in a commercially viable way without its websites appearing on Google."
If Google does not obey the injunction, it may be held in contempt of court. For what it's worth, Canada's attorney general said the country's courts cannot trump other nations' judges, adding that the banning order was "an impermissible exercise of extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction."
A spokesperson for Google told us: "We are carefully reviewing the court’s findings and evaluating our next steps." ®