An Italian court has overturned the conviction of three Google executives found guilty of breaking Italian law by allowing a video of a bullied teenager to be posted online.
The clip was uploaded in 2006 and the employees were given six-month
suspended jail sentences in 2010. Google had appealed against the ruling, saying it had removed the video within two hours of being notified by the authorities.
The offending video clip was a mobile phone upload showing four students at a school
in Turin bullying the victim. Prosecutors had highlighted that it had been online for two months despite several users posting comments calling for its removal.
A Google spokesman said:
We're very happy that the
verdict has been reversed and our colleagues' names have been cleared.
Of course, while we're all delighted with the appeal, our thoughts continue to be with the family who have been through the ordeal.
Giovanni Maria Riccio, professor of IT Law at the University of Salerno, described the ruling as a
landmark decision :
Another condemnation for Google would had jeopardised investments of big internet players in Italy and would had a negative impact also on small operators and ISPs [internet service
providers], which are not in the condition of monitoring contents on their service, he told the BBC.
It is a happy news not only for Italy, but for the whole internet.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that the Italian Authority for Communications has passed two resolutions on internet video and internet radio respectively, that classify YouTube, Vimeo and other sites whose content is entirely user generated as
The reasoning is that if a site in any way curates their user generated content, even with automatic algorithms, this amounts to editorial control, and the site should be held to the same rules that apply to Italy's
broadcast television stations. This would subject these sites to a small tax, would require them to take down videos within 48 hours of the request of anyone who feels they have been slandered, and to not broadcast videos unsuitable for children at
certain times of day (whatever that would actually mean for a completely online service).
Most importantly, however, the new resolutions would make YouTube and other sites legally responsible for all of their content.
Italy has been trying
for a while to pin YouTube and Google employees for videos uploaded on to YouTube by parties who had nothing to do with any of the companies' employees.
Another dispute with Google is that Mediaset, a company owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi, is currently suing YouTube in Italian courts for about €500 million because it allowed users to upload copyrighted video taken from their broadcasts.
Three Google executives were convicted in Italy of allowing film of an autistic schoolboy being bullied to be posted online in a ruling that could profoundly change the way in which video clips are put on the internet.
The three Google executives
— David Drummond, senior vice-president and chief legal officer, George Reyes, Google's former chief financial officer, and Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel — were each given a six-month suspended prison sentence, but were cleared of defamation
charges. A fourth defendant, Arvind Desikan, senior product marketing manager, was acquitted.
Alfredo Robledo, the prosecutor, said that he was very satisfied with the verdict in th