Concerns over ISP Liability Highlighted As Italy Convicts 3 Google Executives

As announced by Google on Wednesday, a prosecutor in Milan, Italy indicted four Google employees with criminal defamation and a failure to comply with Italy's privacy laws after a group of students in Turin produced a video of themselves bullying a boy with Down syndrome and uploaded it onto the Google Video website in late 2006. According to Google, the employees charged on Wednesday were unaware of the video during the time that Google Video hosted the file and only received word of the film's existence following its removal. Google states that the video was removed within hours of notification from Italian police, and that it assisted authorities in helping to identify the individual who uploaded the film. Among those convicted are senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond, former Google Italy board member George De Los Reyes and global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer. The fourth employee, senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan, was acquitted.

The recent charges highlight concerns of Internet service providers in the ongoing debate on ISP liability for 3rd party content. The prosecutor in Milan brought charges despite a safe harbor provision in EU's Directive on Electronic Commerce:

Article 14
1. Where an information society service is provided that consists of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service, Member States shall ensure that the service provider is not liable for the information stored at the request of a recipient of the service, on condition that:
(a) the provider does not have actual knowledge of illegal activity or information and, as regards claims for damages, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which the illegal activity or information is apparent; or
(b) the provider, upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information.

For more information, see Google's Official Blog.

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