Internet Law

Google loses another auto-complete case

Google’s auto-complete function does not always produce favourable results. Incorrect entries showing someone in a bad light can damage a person’s reputation. A new decision by a court in Munich has clarified Google’s obligations with regard to false auto-complete entries.

Google loses another auto-complete case ©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia

Google loses another auto-complete case ©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia

Auto-complete creates impression of insolvency

A company based in the state of Bavaria, Germany, called TV Warterzimmer sought an injunction against Google in June 2013. The company took exception to the Google entry “TV-Wartezimmer insolvency”.

Director, Markus Spammer, confirmed that the entry was false and argued that it created the impression the company was having financial difficulties or was unable to pay its debts. This had damaging consequences for the business.

Knowledge justifies liability

Spammer complained that Google had not answered correspondence sent in May 2013, asking the technology giant to submit a declaration to cease and desist. TV-Wartezimmer sought an injunction as there was a continued risk of infringements occurring.

The Munich court granted the injunction which will force Google to take action against the entry.

The court relied on the recent case law of Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH). The judges held that Google is liable for personality right infringements by its auto-complete function, as soon as it obtains knowledge of a breach (judgment from 14.05.2013, Az. VI ZR 269/12).

Once the search-engine company is informed about an infringement, it is under an obligation to examine the suspected rogue entry and to take necessary action.

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Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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