German High Court Slams Google Over a Sneaky Little Takedown Trick

German High Court Slams Google Over Transparency Report Program
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When Google issues a takedown notice, infringing links still readily appear.  Now, a German judge is taking issue with a ‘Transparency Report’ trick.

In 2009, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously said,

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

Salon writer Natasha Lennard criticized Google for their lack of transparency.  In an article slamming the company’s poor transparency practices, Lennard wrote back in 2013,

“There is, in this missive, the same dangerous optimism inscribed in the company’s slogan and underpinning Schmidt’s 2009 comments:  We have nothing to hide, no evil here, only evil need hide…  It ignores that what gets to “be evil” perhaps does not align with their bright-eyed, well-remunerated optimism.”

In an attempt to curtail criticisms over its lack of transparency, Google created the Transparency Report program.  According to the search giant, they process over three million takedown notices a day just from its search engine.  When copyright holders ask the search giant to take down a site, they willingly comply.  The site then details where the takedown notices came from for all to see.

To post takedown notices in its Transparency Report, Google works closely with Lumen Database.  Now, a German high court has ruled that the company may have gone too far with its Transparency Report program.

Using the search engine, a local company found that Google accidentally linked its name with the term ‘suspect fraud.’  A German court ordered the company to take down said links.  Once Google removed the results, it pointed users to a takedown request on the Lumen Database. The note read,

As a reaction to a legal request that was sent to Google, we have removed one search result.  You can find further information at

The company found that through the takedown notice, the search giant continued linking to the offensive URLs.  After yet another court filing, The Higher Regional Court of Munich has sided with the local company. It ordered Google to remove the link to the Lumen Database takedown notice.

Explaining the court’s reasoning, lawyer Mirko Brüß, expert on German copyright law, wrote,

By presenting its users an explanation about the deleted search result, combined with a hyperlink to the Lumen website where the deleted search result could be clicked, Google (still) enabled users to find and read the infringing statements, even after being ordered by a court to discontinue doing so.

After Google issues a takedown notice, infringing links still appear on Lumen.  Copyright holders have slammed the search giant for failing to remove these links. The company only adds the links to takedown notices after they have removed the infringing content.

Brüß added,

“The court found that it made no difference whether one or two clicks are needed to get to the result.”

The Higher Regional Court of Munich’s ruling may set a legal precedent for removal of more takedown notices.

Image by Bloom Energy (CC by 2.0)