Google and the Right to Be Forgotten

The Solace of Oblivion In Europe, the right to be forgotten trumps #Google. In the US copyright is effective for this

In the effort to escape unwanted attention on the Internet,
individuals and companies have had success with one weapon: copyright
law. It is unlawful to post photographs or other copyrighted material
without the permission of the copyright holder. “I needed to get
ownership of the photos,” Bremer, the Catsouras family’s lawyer, told
me. So he began a lengthy negotiation with the California Highway
Patrol to persuade it to surrender copyright on the photographs. In
the end, though, the C.H.P. would not make the deal.

Other victims of viral Internet trauma have fared better with the
copyright approach. In August, racy private photographs of Jennifer
Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other celebrities were leaked to several Web
sites. (The source of the leaks has not been identified.) Google has
long had a system in place to block copyrighted material from turning
up in its searches. Motion-picture companies, among others, regularly
complain about copyright infringement on YouTube, which Google owns,
and Google has a process for identifying and removing these links.
Several of the leaked photographs were selfies, so the women
themselves owned the copyrights; friends had taken the other pictures.
Lawyers for one of the women established copyrights for all the
photographs they could, and then went to sites that had posted the
pictures, and to Google, and insisted that the material be removed.
Google complied, as did many of the sites, and now the photographs are
difficult to find on the Internet, though they have not disappeared.
“For the most part, the world goes through search engines,” one lawyer
involved in the effort to limit the distribution of the photographs
told me. “Now it’s like a tree falling in the forest. There may be
links out there, but if you can’t find them through a search engine
they might as well not exist.”

The job had two parts. The first was technical—that is, creating a
software infrastructure so that links could be removed. This was not
especially difficult, since Google could apply the system already in
place for copyrighted and trademarked works. Similarly, Google had
already blocked links that might have led to certain dangerous or
unlawful activity, like malware or child pornography.


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