The Free Internet Project

June 2017

Canada's Supreme Court Backs Order for Google to Remove Link from Access in All Countries, Not Just Canada

This week, in Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions, Inc., Canada's Supreme Court upheld (in a 7-2 decision) the grant of a preliminary injunction against Google to remove a link to a website that allegedly infringed the intellectual property of a small tech company.  The IP controversy was not against Google as a party, but the lower court ordered Google to remove the link to the defendant's website from access worldwide.  Google had delisted the website from searches in Canada (at google.ca).  But the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the grant of a worldwide preliminary injunction that affects people around the world.  [Download the decision.]

The Supreme Court reasoned: 

  •  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. 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. In the absence of an evidentiary foundation, and given Google’s right to seek a rectifying order, it is not equitable to deny E the extraterritorial scope it needs to make the remedy effective, or even to put the onus on it to demonstrate, country by country, where such an order is legally permissible.
  • D and its representatives have ignored all previous court orders made against them, have left British Columbia, and continue to operate their business from unknown locations outside Canada. E has made efforts to locate D with limited success. D is only able to survive — at the expense of E’s survival — on Google’s search engine which directs potential customers to D’s websites. This makes Google the determinative player in allowing the harm to occur. On balance, since the world‑wide injunction is the only effective way to mitigate the harm to E pending the trial, the only way, in fact, to preserve E itself pending the resolution of the underlying litigation, and since any countervailing harm to Google is minimal to non‑existent, the interlocutory injunction should be upheld.

Commentators, such as Michael Geist, pointed out the danger in the Canadian approach: if each country (isuch as China or Iran) used the same power to issue worldwide injunctions against Google, there would be a race to the bottom and massive censorship online. 

Day of Protest on July 12 to Fight Repeal of Net Neutrality in US

From Fight for the Future: Thousands of websites plan massive online protest for July 12th. Twitter, Soundcloud, Medium, Twilio, Plays.tv, and Adblock are among latest major web platforms to join the Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality scheduled for July 12th to oppose the FCC’s plan to slash Title II, the legal framework for net neutrality rules that protect online free speech and innovation. Companies participating will display prominent messages on their homepages on July 12 or encourage users to take action in other ways, like through push notifications and emails. The momentum comes against the backdrop of a recent Morning Consult / POLITICO poll that shows broad bipartisan support for net neutrality rules. “This protest is gaining so much momentum because no one wants their cable company to charge them extra fees or have the power to control what they can see and do on the Internet,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “Congress and the FCC need to listen to the public, not just lobbyists. The goal of this day of action is to make them listen.”

More than 40,000 people, sites, and organizations have signed up to participate in the effort overall, and more announcements from major companies are expected in the coming days. Many popular online personalities including YouTuber Philip DeFranco, and dozens of major online forums and subreddits have also announced their participation. The effort is led by many of the grassroots groups behind the largest online protests in history including the SOPA blackout and the Internet Slowdown. The day of action will focus on grassroots mobilization, with public interest groups activating their members and major web platforms providing their visitors with tools to contact Congress and the FCC.

Companies participating include Amazon, Netflix, OK Cupid, Kickstarter, Etsy, Reddit, Mozilla, Vimeo, Y Combinator, GitHub, Private Internet Access, Pantheon, Bittorrent Inc., Shapeways, Nextdoor, Patreon, Dreamhost, and CREDO Mobile, Goldenfrog, Fark, Chess.com, Imgur, Namecheap, DuckDuckGo, Checkout.com, Sonic, Brave, Ting, ProtonMail, O’Reilly Media, Discourse, and Union Square Ventures. Organizations participating include Fight for the Future, Free Press Action Fund, Demand Progress, Center for Media Justice, EFF,  Internet Association,  Internet Archive, World Wide Web Foundation, Creative Commons, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Greenpeace, Common Cause, ACLU, Rock the Vote, American Library Association, Daily Kos, OpenMedia, The Nation, PCCC, MoveOn, OFA, Public Knowledge, OTI, Color of Change, MoveOn, Internet Creators Guild, and many others. See the full list here.