This week the Supreme Court of Canada heard an appeal by Google against a 2015 decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia requiring Google to remove hundreds of links and to modify search results in order to block traffic to websites carrying infringing products. Click here to see a webcast of the SCC hearing.
Google was not a party to the original dispute between B.C.-based Equustek Solutions Inc., and its former distributor, yet the BC court found that it had territorial competence over Google, as well as an inherent jurisdiction to issue an injunction against it in order to preserve the “rule of law”. At issue before the Supreme Court of Canada is whether local or national courts may compel non-party technology companies located outside of Canada, to take positive action. Some argue that the court order effectively shifts to Google responsibility that should arguably fall on the shoulders of law enforcement agencies. Google argues that it has done nothing wrong, and yet it is being forced to bear the costs and responsibility for searching and taking down the defendant’s websites.
Moreover, Google may now need to alter its worldwide search results in order to comply with the BC court order. The implications are significant: will this open the door to other, more authoritarian jurisdictions, effectively imposing restrictions on technology companies? Could foreign courts impose limitations on Internet content? How will companies be able to quantify and/or limit this potentially unlimited risk? We will continue to track this case for further updates.