Search Engine Law
April 27, 2007 7:51 AM   Subscribe

The Structure of Search Engine Law, by James Grimmelmann. [abstract inside]
posted by monju_bosatsu (10 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
From the abstract:
Search engines are the new linchpins of the Internet, and a new body of law - search engine law - will increasingly determine the shape of the Internet. Making sensible search policy requires a clear understanding of how search works, what interests are at stake, and what legal questions intersect at search. This article offers the first comprehensive overview of search engine law, which it organizes into a systematic taxonomy. It then demonstrates the dense legal interrelationships created by search by discussing a series of important themes in search engine law, each of which cuts across many doctrinal areas.
Grimmelmann has also written a trio of papers on interdependence, comparative law, and power politics in virtual worlds.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:52 AM on April 27, 2007

First post! Number one search-result!
posted by grimmelm at 8:15 AM on April 27, 2007

Search engines seem an odd target for law since it's almost uniquely privatized. "Sensible search policy?" Are they going to try Google to give up their algorithm or force modifications? Who decides if and how these are implemented and where do I vote against them?
posted by lesseffective at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2007

Oh, hi! I didn't see you there. :)
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2007

That's a very interesting article. I was particular interested in the idea that the search engine is protected as not being a speaker for defamation purposes, but if there is but a short summary, it can then be considered the speaker. I think that will lead to some seriously interesting legal question. Eg: Article claiming X is a kiddie rapist. Search result for X brings up the article. Search engine has the comment: "Article claiming X is a kiddie rapist." That comment can now be defamatory even if it is generated based on information sent from the link to the search engine?
posted by dios at 8:32 AM on April 27, 2007

Lesseffective, I pretty much agree with you. By "sensible search policy," I mostly mean things like "You know, if you make search engines liable because people can search for copyright-infringing stuff, it might have some side effets you should think about first." A lot of lawyers don't yet realize that pulling on online law in one place has consequences in other places. Search engines are a great place to make that point because search resembles so many different other applications online.

I don't want a whole lot of law specific to search engines, just to help people take note of how important search is getting.
posted by grimmelm at 8:39 AM on April 27, 2007

Oh, also, let me point everyone to another download link. In fact, you can get all of my papers either through SSRN, BEPress, and my own site. I care a lot about making scholarship publicly available online, so I don't want to get locked in to just one source for downloaing papers.
posted by grimmelm at 8:47 AM on April 27, 2007

James is too modest, apparently, to link to SSRN Considered Harmful when pointing out that his stuff is available elsewhere. So go read it before pointing to further SSRN links :)
posted by louie at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2007

I was particular interested in the idea that the search engine is protected as not being a speaker for defamation purposes, but if there is but a short summary, it can then be considered the speaker.

Isn't this already the case in places like Turkey, China, and Germany that crimimalize certain speech? Google censors Falun Gong to Chinese IP addresses. Holding Google liable as a publisher of Holocaust denial, insulting the Turkish state, and plain old libel and slander cannot really be that far behind.
posted by three blind mice at 10:39 AM on April 27, 2007

Three blind mice -- yes. The EU may be moving to make ISPs more responsible for hate speech hosted on or passing through their systems. Search engines would be logical next targets. And it would be quite easy within the European tradition of such things to see libel as an attack on the human right to dignity, and therefore also a proper subject for holding search engines responsibe.
posted by grimmelm at 10:42 PM on April 27, 2007

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