The federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (view the entire act here) currently holds any search engine liable for linking to a web site which may be infringing copyrights. As a result, if a search engine refuses to remove all links to an infringing web site, the copyright holder can sue. What is wrong with this? Search engines such as Google with over 3 billion web pages indexed simply do not have the time or the legal backing to investigate every claim of copyright infringement. Despite this obvious limitation, however, Google is forced to review and rule on all complaints summarily. For example a claim by the Church of Scientology requested an anti-scientology site be removed because it contained copyrighted excerpts from their writings. When Google promptly removed the web site, free speech advocates made quite a commotion, citing that such censorship reduces the freedom of speech that the Internet naturally provides . (click here for this story)
Should search engines have to deal with this or should all legal preceedings be focused on the infringing web site? The search engines don’t believe they should have any liability. Unfortunately, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act cannot be reviewed simply on the basis of this claim. In the future there are chances that a culmination of other unrelated claims will prompt a review, but until then we just may not know what we are missing on the search engines.