US Federal Court Rejects Global Search Order

from EFF

After years of litigation in two countries, a federal court in the US has weighed in on a thorny question: Does Google US have to obey a Canadian court order requiring Google to take down information around the world, ignoring contrary rules in other jurisdictions? According to the Northern District of California, the answer is no.

The case is Google v. Equustek, and it’s part of a growing trend in which courts around the world order companies to take actions far beyond the borders those courts usually respect. It started as a simple dispute in Canada between British Columbia-based Equustek Solutions and Morgan Jack and others, known as the Datalink defendants. Equustek accuses them of selling counterfeit Equustek routers online. The defendants never appeared in court to challenge the claim, which meant that Equustek effectively won without the court ever considering whether the claim was valid.

That was all normal enough, but Equustek also argued that California-based Google facilitated access to the defendants’ sites. Although Google was not named in the lawsuit and everyone agreed that Google had done nothing wrong, it voluntarily took down specific URLs that directed users to the defendants’ products and ads under the Canadian domains. Equustek wanted more and so it persuaded a Canadian court to order Google to delete the allegedly infringing search results from all other Google domains, including and Google appealed, but both the British Columbia Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that decision.

Here’s the thing: a court in one country has no business issuing a decision affecting the rights of citizens around the world. As EFF explained in numerous filings in the case, a global de-indexing order conflicts with rights recognized in the U.S, such as the right to access information and the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Canadian order set a dangerous precedent that would be followed by others, creating a race to the bottom as courts in countries with far weaker speech protections would feel empowered to effectively edit the Internet.

More here.

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5 Responses to US Federal Court Rejects Global Search Order

  1. Damian Mioduszewski January 26, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

    In response to the growing trend of courts not respecting their jurisdictions and ordering global companies to follow orders well outside their jurisdictions, companies have begun to fight back. Just recently, during 2017 a court case of Google v. Equustek the Canadian Supreme Court ordered google to delete URLs off other domains such as and This is an obvious abuse and overstepping of the Canadian court’s jurisdiction ordering a global company to adjust it’s global business. This sets a dangerous precedent for lower Canadian courts and a bad example for other countries around the world to hopefully suppress and alter any information coming from global companies. I believe that this trend is a very dangerous one that has the potential to suppress information that should be known by the public.
    If a country like myriar is committing a genocide of Muslims but wants to retain its global reputation then they would obviously want to suppress the information of the genocide. Following the Canadian’s lead they would take google or other large corporations to their own country’s probably corrupt court system and order them to suppress the information. When their court order they can then effectively order google to probably delete the information that would put their global reputation at risk. It should be known that progressive countries like Canada does not support the overstepping of jurisdictions and possible suppressing of information but instead what we witness is the complete opposite where the Canadian court system is actively supporting suppression of information which is against the foundations of a democracy.
    The Canadian courts did however leave an “out” from the court order by them stating “If google has evidence that complying with such an injunction would require it to violate the laws of another juristicion… order accordingly.” Thankfully, Google is such a large corporation with the resources of fighting an international court case that has stood up for our rights of having non censored information. By researching into the case more I have found that google has found that “out” the Canadian a court system was searching for. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from the United States shows that this court order obviously interferes with other jurisdictions. My hope is with this information google will appeal the court case of Google v. Equustek and hopefully be able to change the judgement in order for them to keep the information up.
    Obviously, I do understand the reason why Equustek and the Canadian court system want the URLs removed because it does affect Equustek business because those URLs are used facilitate the sale of knock-off routers. I believe Google also saw how these URLs are harming legitimate business so they offered to remove 345 URLs but the court wants them to remove the entire category of websites. That is where the line should be drawn because that just begins to suppress information that can be used for innocent reasons. It is obviously important to realize why the court ordered what it did because many people would cry that the governments are actively trying to suppress information. In conclusion I do believe that google should appeal the Canadian court decision again because the court order was found to be in violation of other court’s jurisdiction.

  2. Matt Henry January 26, 2018 at 3:28 pm #

    In all of the cases we have looked at in class so far, jurisdiction has been a major issue. It seems pretty straightforward that a court presented with a lawsuit will have the authority to rule over that case, but it is not that simple. In Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, two international companies meet at a district court in Virginia. How is this even possible? The textbook defines long-arm statutes which protect citizens from non-residents by granting courts in personam jurisdiction over non-residents having at least “minimum contacts” within the state. The domain names in question were registered in Virginia which satisfies the minimum contact standard and the case was able to be heard. When using a state’s infrastructure is only fair to be held to their laws, but in the case of this article, a Canadian company brought a suit against Google. Google is a company based in California that operates worldwide. Since Canada has different privacy laws than the US, Canadian company Equustek wanted to remove certain search results, even though the US constitution grants citizens the right to this information. A trial court in Canada ruled, “Google must remove links to full websites that contained pages selling a product that allegedly infringed trade secret rights” ( Google appealed the decision but the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the position.
    Supreme Court cases set a precedent that becomes difficult to break away from and the Canadian ruling of this case is risky in many aspects. In regards to international ideas about the internet, if a Canadian court can affect what US citizens are able to view online, then this can happen in any country around the world. It is problematic that other countries are able to impact freedom that is guaranteed to citizens of the US and other countries that protect these freedoms. does not operate in Canada and the fact that Canadian courts still had jurisdiction may allow future courts to hear cases they do not have the authority to hear. Jurisdiction is always a major issue in international trials, and this ruling would make it so much easier to hold in personam jurisdiction over a business. The Electronic Frontier Foundation intervened since the outcome of this trial would cause laws of many different nations to conflict with each other. After years of litigation, a federal US court ruled that Google does not have to follow a Canadian court order. This is comforting as a US citizen to know that other countries cannot take away our guaranteed freedoms or hold US corporations subject to their jurisdiction. Minimum contacts has been a fair standard of jurisdiction over non-residents, and if this case was never overturned it would give the court system too much authority to rule over cases that are out of their jurisdiction.

  3. Mary Margaret Miller January 26, 2018 at 7:37 pm #

    In this case, a company called Equustek took a few owners of other datalinks to court, claiming they were selling counterfeit Equustek routers on their sites. Equustek’s case had only been won in Canada because the defendants did not appear in court. Due to their absence, the validity of the claims being made by Equustek could not be confirmed or denied, therefore they won the case. As Google heard about the case, they had removed the domains that were selling the counterfeit products as a way to avoid confrontation and a lawsuit from Equustek.
    Equustek attempted to pursue Google in court due to their ownership of a database that contained the websites that were selling fraudulent products. Although Equustek is based out of Canada, they tried to bring the case up with the state of California since that is where Google’s offices are located. Had Equustek been based out of the United States, or had some form of property in the United States instead of Canada, they would have had a somewhat greater chance of success with the overall outcome of the case. Although they were successfully able to go after the domains for trademark infringement, they did not achieve their ultimate goal to sue Google for “allowing” the other domains to sell counterfeit products. This was because a court in one country does not have authority over a court in a different country, and therefore Equustek had no right to try and sue Google. Equustek ordered that the Canadian court should have Google remove the URLS. A court from another country cannot dictate how a business in another country operates. Each country has different laws for corporations to abide by, and Google does not have to succumb to the “laws” other countries try to create for them, unless if they are based out of those countries.
    If Google was a smaller company, they may not have been as lucky with the outcome of the case. Due to their larger sized corporation and appealing to the decision of the court, Google avoided any form of potential lawsuit that could have risen. Google was protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which, which mentions how sites are digitally copyrighted. This case coincides with the Harrods case that was previously discussed. Harrods was able to go after the false domain names that infringed upon their services from other countries and was able to go after them for falsifying their brand. Due to quasi rem jurisdiction, the other domains had to transfer their names to the Harrods in the UK. Unlike the case between Google and Equustek, Harrods was able to retain the domain names as opposed to deleting them, and the court of Virginia rules that the rights of the domain names must be returned to Harrods. This occurred because in quasi rem jurisdiction, different states are able to go against each other if their property resides within that state. Thus, the plaintiff can then take the defendant to court.

  4. Coby Dunn January 31, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

    In this case, google vs. equustek, A Canadian company has asked google to remove information from the internet. While Canada may have the right to do this in their own country, they do not have the right to strip that away from US citizens. Google stood its ground on this issue and did not delete those domain names. While some of those domain names may have had misleading information, that is not the underlying issue. Looking at context, we live in an information hungry world. The second anyone sees that they cannot access information that should be public, they start to throw a fit, and for good cause. In the US we have rights to information and protection under Section 230 of the communications decency act. Since this case is also one of the first of its kind, it would take legal precedence. Meaning that if Canada had won in its demands to delete these websites, other countries could take advantage of search engines. It would be an information crisis, and access to information would be denied to millions of people. Another issue that is apparent in this case is jurisdiction. Who has the right to control access to these domains? From the outcome of the case, it is clear that US law to priority over Canadian law. This issue would have been a lot different if google had been based instead in Canada. But since it is the US, our law wins. The biggest issue with this case however was how it would effect the rest of the world. Imagine a country being able to suppress information not only to its citizens, but to people here in the US. Google did however give in a little in the beginning, by restricting domain names that sold faulty routers, since they were seen to indeed hurt canadian business, but canada’s request to have the entire category of websites was not only crazy, but it was a violation of our rights.

  5. Antonio Chirichiello February 9, 2018 at 8:59 pm #

    The internet, a global network which became an innovation that changed, the method we use to communicate and perform daily tasks. The World Wide Web which was created almost a decade after the internet, is a fairly young invention that has a growing system of laws with constant regulations. In order to protect the providers and users’ rights on the web, multiple countries came together to create a set a laws for the people on the internet to abide. Five years after the birth of the World Wide Web, the section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was created. This was a law that was created to protect not only Internet Service providers but also, the intermediary providers. In that it protects our freedom of expression and innovation on the internet, I believe that, this is vital to our rights as human beings.

    I can discern that Equustek properly won the first claim which accused Google of selling false routers online because, it is an unethical business practice. The company, Google did not appear in court which insinuates to me that, they are guilty and Equustek deserves to win the case. But, I feel that the Equustek Company went too far on taking google to court on attempt to violate their rights on the internet demanding they delete multiple URL servers. According to the article, it states that, “Equustek wanted more and so it persuaded a Canadian court to order Google to delete the allegedly infringing search results from all other Google domains”. This affects others and their rights to those search results that had nothing to do with the infringing search results.

    This issue would have affected citizens in countries around the world and one court does not have the jurisdiction to impose on the company, Google worldwide. I sense that more courts will try to take the initiative to regulate the internet rules in their countries. It will be an unfair battle for the corporations that do not possess enough capital to defend themselves in trial. There will be little to nothing that citizens can do in countries with less rights and capabilities to fight the court ruling over internet regulations. I feel that, the Communications Decency Act will not assist companies in certain countries whose freedom laws are a bit stricter.

    In conclusion, I feel that the CDA should be abided by in all countries because, any future cases similar to this one will have an effect on other citizens around the world. Do we handle that situation when we cross that bridge? I feel that we should react now. The internet has been an invention that has benefitted humanity. One country does not have the right to regulate and speak for other countries. In my opinion, they do not have a right to decide the fate of an issue that affects citizens in other countries. They need to come together to figure it out or else we will never be able to break the cycle and unlawful cases will win. Winning will affect the rights of citizens around the world.

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