A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Google Inc.'s Web search systems infringe on a publisher's copyright, a minor victory for the company which faces numerous suits charging that its services trample on the rights of authors.
In a ruling issued last Friday and made known on Thursday, Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rejected eleven allegations contained in a civil complaint by plaintiff Gordon Roy Parker of Philadelphia.
Parker, 39, an online publisher of sexual seduction guides with titles like "Why Hotties Choose Losers," is a former paralegal who was acting on his own behalf in suing Google. His site also offers racetrack betting and chess-playing tips.
The eleven claims against Google had included accusations of copyright and trademark infringement, invasion of privacy, negligence, racketeering, abuse of legal process and civil conspiracy, according to the court documents.
Judge Surrick's ruling found that Google enjoys projection under an exemption to the Communications Decency Act for online service providers acting as an automatic redistributor of published material.
Parker's original 72-page complaint had argued that Google was responsible for anonymous Web postings attacking him in Usenet newsgroups that Google archives on its computers and via the newsgroup and general Web search systems it offers.
Usenet newsgroups are a wide-ranging, uncensored forum for online group discussions that date back 25 years and cover an endless range of topics from music to religion to obscure topics like beekeeping and alternative sexual practices.
"If someone wants to ruin your reputation, they can use Google to do it," Parker said of attacks on his reputation that surface when Web users search the Usenet archive for links to him. "Libel law as we know it in print publications does not exist on the Internet. It is just not being applied," he said.
The dismissal of Parker's case follows a ruling in a Nevada federal court in January in favor of Google in a copyright lawsuit filed by a lawyer who publishes poems on his Web site.
The judge in that case affirmed Google's "fair use" right to cache, or store a copy in its database for redistribution.
"The Parker decision is one of several recent rulings finding that Google's services are consistent with principles of copyright law," Michael Kwun, Google's litigation counsel, said in a statement released by the company. "We are very pleased with this decision," he said, noting that the judge in Pennsylvania had relied in part on the earlier Nevada case.