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German national railroad suing Google
Might go after Altavista and Yahoo, too.

 8:27 am on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

In a nutshell: They're filing suit (in a German court) because Google's index includes pages about railway sabotage. The sabotage information is from Radikal, a publication that's already been outlawed in Germany.

Google apparently never responded to a letter demanding they remove the listings. Altavista and Yahoo have 2 more days to respond.

(I wonder what they're planning to do about the other ten zillion search sites out there?)



 9:07 am on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Nice find mbauser2 - wonder if its in anyway related to this EU decision?



 9:23 am on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

How absurd is that! If people in Germany hate a particular website they should attack that website not a SE that index the whole web! This is crazy, there should be an international treaty that says SE may not be sued because of sites they index. The only thing a search engine should need to follow by law is a robots.txt file.

STOP picking on SE mirrors, if you donít like what you see go to the source and deal with it there.


 9:34 am on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)


They may not be able to touch the originating website - the reason being that it is hosted outside of their jurisdiction.

However I would suggest that Google and the others may have servers in Germany which are listing the site. This I assume would be the reason for the action.


 9:44 am on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

It may be that the act of someone "downloading" a web page is considered Publishing, so it would fall under the jurisdiction of the country where it was "published".

Interesting UK case from 1999, it's a news story but involves a @dult web sites.



 9:56 am on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

There are two issues involved - one is forcing the host to take down the site in question. This part was accomplished by the decision of the dutch cour

The second part is the lawsuits against Google, AV and Yahoo. Deutsche Bahn AG says it has notified all three companies and asked them to remove references to the site. Neither one even replied.
Deutsche Bahn announces going to a german court, saying they don't see any chances on US courts.
This is probably true judging from the experiences made with a french attempt to force Yahoo.fr to block Nazi sites - Yahoo went to a US court and won.

Lisa - one small remark: it certainly is not the german people involved here, it's a german company. 99,999% of the german people have never heard of this lawsuit.


 10:41 am on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

I remember a similar incident involving amazon who had Mein Kampf on sale. Banned in Germany. Legal in the US. Not sure of the outcome.


 12:17 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Deutsche Bahn, the German national railway operator, will today (Wednesday) file a legal suit against Google because the search engine provides links to a Web site that offers instructions on how to sabotage railway systems. Lawsuits against Yahoo! and AltaVista also are being prepared.

CW360 Article [cw360.com]


 12:27 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

What worries me is that this is a legal challenge to the Google cache, and that could set a very unpleasant precedent if it goes the wrong way... the Google cache is basically one legal time bomb waiting to go off (they have terrabytes of other people's copyrighted information in there without their explicit permission) and one succesful court case could potentially blow the whole thing. I know this particular case isn't about copyright, but anything that gets lawyers to start snooping around the cache could mean trouble. Can you imagine the implications of a ban on search engines storing cached versions of pages?


 12:33 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Surely Yahoo would have a case to answer - do they not review websites?


 12:38 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

It's not a Google issue.
AV and yahoo are targeted also. Yahoo most likely not because of reviewed directory listings but because of Google results.


 1:06 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>Can you imagine the implications of a ban on search engines storing cached versions of pages?<<

Yes, webmasters everywhere would rejoice! :)


 1:22 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)


"Even if the pages no longer exist on XS4ALL sites, we want the search engines to remove the link because it still advertises a handbook for destruction. People will start looking for it elsewhere and we don't want that," said Schreyer, adding that Deutsche Bahn will also take action against other sites that host the Radikal articles.

They would just have to prove in court that one known sabetour got his information from a search in google and we have a block on all major search engines in Europe x-¶

But taking it to court in Germany is a very smart move by Deutsche Bahn.

The US freedom of speech laws are much more open then anywhere else in Europe.


 1:38 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Maybe this will be a wake up call to SEs who have non-existent customer service. I would say that SE's have the worst customer service. I am not saying they need to answer every customer e-mail, but in this case they should have responded and taken appropriate action.


 1:59 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

After reading this article, it seems that the Google cache is indeed recognized as a target by the company suing Google:


There is a hierarchy of liability here, from most liable to least:

1. The search engine has a cache of the content available. VERDICT: you're in a handbasket headed for legal hell; you had better answer your mail more quickly and do what they demand!

2. The search engine links to the material, but does not cache it. VERDICT: naughty, don't do it again.

3. The ISP has already taken down the material, but the search engine still links to dead pages. However, the fact that title and summary information is available from the search engine means that the search engine is alerting searchers to the fact that this information was once available, and allows them to look for the same or similar information elsewhere on the Web. -- VERDICT: we'll let it go until the next crawling cycle, but not longer than 60 days.

Google should be worried. It seems likely that this company can prevail in a German court. What that means is that Google would have the option of taking down the cache and links, or they would have to block these listings to every searcher within the jurisdiction of the German court.

Google will end up pulling the links. Then the question is whether this will open the floodgates for similar suits from other countries. The entire international expansion that Google is into, with subsidiaries all over, could end up requiring a staff of international lawyers.

Even if Google's German subsidiary does everything it can do to comply locally, the data is still streaming in from Google's servers outside Germany. A German court could determine that damages are due to the German company because of noncompliance. They could collect damages by seizing Google's assets in Germany.

What a mess! I don't know what this means for search engines generally, but I'm sure it does not bode well for Google's cache policy. It's just too easy to hold Google liable for its cache; no jury would give Google the benefit of the doubt on this one. Without the cache, Google can expect at least some sympathetic consideration from jurors and judges.


 3:25 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think this case belies the need of an international internet law. Given this case's success, if the Taliban were still in existence they could sue any site with partially exposed women, or showing/talking about women working. I'd propose having the companies country of origin be the determiner of law, but then you could have websites paper-based out of Holland selling drugs to the US.

Maybe we can have an international ban on lawyers instead...


 3:40 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hmmmmmm, with all the interest stirred up here I think it is likely that the newspapers will be interested as well. Do you think that maybe the railway will regret drawing attention to this issue?

Maybe a second request to the SE, in person, might have obtained the desired result without the publicity?



 3:50 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

hMmmMMm i dont think they would win that one, information is available everywhere. Ill offer the info on my site ;)


 5:16 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

Looks like "Freedom of Speech" will become a hot topic... at least in those countries that allow it.


 5:27 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

I see it more as a general problem. Sure, in this case it looks like a political censorship issue. But what really is at stake are two things:

- Liability of search engines. Think of the scientology case, think of the Mark Nutrition case, think of the yahoo/Nazi case.

- National laws and the internet: How can a worldwide medium be controlled by national laws?


 8:02 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think AlbinoRhyno has the idea summed up.

On one hand banning all sites that are illegal in one country or other would end up with 95% of all sites banned.

On the other hand not banning the sites makes a complete mockery of national governments passing laws on freedom of information/speech or any kind of religious/political prohibitions.

Instead of 'Video killed the Radio Star' we have 'Internet killed the Nation state'


 8:49 pm on Apr 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

this article from july 1997 might explain a bit about the german law behind the current action against google.

it would seem that the law prohibiting linking to radikal may have been in place before google existed - the google.com domain name was registered in september 1997, a couple of months after this article was published.

my guess is that it is only google.de as a german based subsidiary of google that would have to abide by the law.


 7:19 am on Apr 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

"The US freedom of speech laws are much more open then anywhere else in Europe"

That's funny, in the USA the real law is the market, big corporation$ own all the media & distribution networks (bye bye SE's listings in the top 20 soon without $: PPC, pay for this, pay for that). What good is freedom of speech if there is nobody to hear you? That's also why there is no political alternative to the center right Democrats in the USA. Why would big corp media relay content of anti-corp political parties? No discordant voices can emerge without big $ in the USA. The web is temporarily the last freedom of speech space in the USA (with a significant audience if you do not have significant $).

I lived a few years in Europe, working in advertising for a center left wing daily paper. Doing research in newsstands, I was amazed to be able to buy 7 daily papers from extreme right to extreme left, all treating the same news with so many different point of views. Reason is cooperative distribution & higher price, not relying on advertising from big corp to subsidize the newsstand price.

Same "freedom of speech" applies in Europe to political parties where if you get 10% of the votes, like for the Greens in Germany for example, well you get somebody that represents your point of view in the parliament, sometime gaining sufficient political power to tip the drill & burn policies of the main partie$ for example.

Question: how long would Google.USA index, cache & link to a terrorist website with recipes to mass murder Americans by poisoning their drinking water system? Is it any different from sabotaging trains in Germany?


 12:28 pm on Apr 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

Google and Altavista have removed the links to the pages.


It doesn't say anything about Google, but in another article, they said that Google had removed them too, but Google is a 50% chance.


 1:23 pm on Apr 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

>Question: how long would Google.USA index, cache & link to
>a terrorist website with recipes to mass murder Americans
>by poisoning their drinking water system?

i take it you've never heard of TBBOM? it's been alive on the net for years and years and years ....


 6:44 pm on Apr 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

Latest news:


Google got lucky this time. Their spin on complying with the request is that the original website had already been taken down, and the link and cache copy is not designed to access a site that has been deliberately removed, but only sites that are temporarily inaccessible.

Does PR stand for PageRank or Public Relations? I think the latter is what's keeping Google going these days.

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