So this Guy named Parker sued Google…

Welcome to Legal Musings where I try to blog about something going on in the legal world.  Often the topic will include writing, copyright..etc.  Sometimes it won’t.

There’s an interesting case where a guy named Parker sued Google. Parker lost at the federal district court level, and the Third Circuit Appellate Court affirmed.  Here’s the complete cite:  Parker v Google, Inc., 242 Fed.App, 833 (CA3 2007).  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so this is the end for it.

Basically, Parker wrote the book, 29 reasons To Not Be a Nice Guy.  Somebody posted #6 on one of Google’s global system of online bulletin boards.  (The archive contains more than 845 million messages).  So, Parker sued Google for this, also claiming that Google provided users with links to websites that portrayed him negatively when users utilized Google’s Internet search engine.

The court held in favor of Google, “Parker’s allegations failed to assert any volitional conduct on the part of Google.”  Parker at 837.  Basically, since Google didn’t post the item, it was shielded from liability for the copyright infringement.  In fact, the court compared Google to a company providing copiers for use (and cited the Fourth Circuit.) “A copy machine owner who makes the machine available to the public to use for copying is not, without more, strictly liable under [the Copyright Act] for illegal copying by a customer.” 373 F.3d at 550.

So, Parker’s second cause of action was for vicarious liability…meaning that Google was liable because it allowed the posting.  Parker lost because “he failed to allege that Google had the requisite knowledge of a third-party’s infringing activity.”  Parker at 838.

So this opens up the question…what if Google had known?  That type of case has to be coming down the pipeline, and when I find it, I’ll post all about it.

Parker also got his butt kicked on his claims for invasion of privacy, defamation and negligence because Google has immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA).  The CDA is a federal law I’ll dig into sometime in the future.  (Some of it has been struck down).  Not today.  For today, just know that the CDA shields companies like Google if all the requirements are met.

Also, the court declined to award attorney fees to Google (often they’re awarded to the winner) because the internet is new law and nobody quite knows the answers regarding it yet.

Today, I’m at the RT Booklovers Convention in LA.  If you’re around, stop by.  Here’s the website:  RT Booklovers Convention.

CYA Disclaimer:  This is not legal advice.  You’re a moron if you take this as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, find a lawyer.  Yes, I’m a lawyer.  But I’m not your lawyer.  I’m providing my analysis of interesting stuff on the internet.  I am not representing you or giving you legal advice.  As much as I’d like to.  🙂 

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7 thoughts on “So this Guy named Parker sued Google…”

  1. Brinda says:

    Great post…but my favorite part is the disclaimer. Do you ever feel you’ll be quoted as the source of justification for some nutty writer? Haha.

  2. Another great post…With the net it is still something that does not have set laws and until that happens people have to look out on what they post and stuff like that…

  3. danicaavet says:

    Wish I was at RT! Have fun and…I love that disclaimer! 🙂

  4. LJ DeLeon says:

    Rebecca, how will this impact authors being pirated? Can we proved Google with a DMCA, proving a site is selling our books and violating our copyright, and force them to block the site for distribution? IMO, this would not be a case of invasion of privacy or holding us up for ridicule. It would be a case of abetting thieft. What’s your take?

    1. I think this case shows how the internet is moving at a pace faster than current law. (Much like science always does with reproductive rights and so on.) In my opinion, the new piracy legislation that will hopefully be re-introduced in Congress soon will give us some guidelines in dealing with such situations. (Hopefully). If any of it is unclear…then the courts will have to interpret the passages.

      This is just the first case I ran across. There are probably more federal cases out there…and there’s also the CDA, so I should be able to dig up some more information. (After RT.) 🙂

  5. Maeve Greyson says:

    I can’t believe that guy thought he could best an animal as big as Google and if he was just looking for publicity – he picked an expensive way to do it.