Milorad “Michael” Trkulja has won his High Court battle to begin the process of suing Google, after he argued the search engine giant wrongly linked his image to the Melbourne criminal underworld.
The High Court ruling gives the Melbournian the opportunity to head back to the Victorian court system to sue Google for defamation, after images relating to a 2004 incident where he was shot in a restaurant were used in what Trkulja claimed to be in an incorrect manner.
Trkulja in December 2012 sent a letter to both Google Australia and its parent company asking for his images to be removed, the court order [PDF] states, and for the search engine to block results to his name.
Google Australia responded a few days later, stating “search products” to which Trkulja’s “inquiry” related were owned by Google and that Google Australia was “unable to further assist” him with his inquiry.
Trkulja successfully argued in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2012 that Google defamed him by publishing the photos; however, four years later the Victorian Court of Appeal overturned the decision, finding the case had no prospect of successfully proving defamation.
The High Court disputed the Court of Appeal’s ruling in a judgment on Wednesday and ordered Google pay Trkulja’s legal costs.
“I will sue Google … and I will sue them ’til they stop. I want them to block my pictures,” Trkulja told AAP, noting he would continue the legal action until he gets the result he wants. “I’m not a criminal, I’ve never been involved, and I will make sure these people are not going to ruin my family — I have grandchildren.”
Google’s lawyers argued it would be “irrational” for someone to assume photos in a Google image search for underworld figures are all of criminals, because the same search would also bring up the Google logo, movie posters, images of crime victims, and photos of actor Marlon Brando.
“We will continue to defend the claim. We decline to comment further on ongoing legal matters,” a Google spokesperson told AAP.
In a unanimous judgment led by Chief Justice Susan Keifel, the court said it was to be assumed someone searching for members of the Melbourne criminal underworld would “rationally suppose” the people whose pictures or names appeared, or at least some of them, were members of such.
The court found while it was clear some pictured, like Brando, were not criminals, it could be concluded someone who is relatively unknown like Trkulja may be connected with criminality or the underworld.
Trkulja also claimed defamation around Google’s “autocomplete” options for his name, which include phrases such as “is a former hit man”, “criminal”, and “underworld”.
However, the court heard autocomplete is an automated function and that previous searches influence future suggestions.
Unlockd enters voluntary administration, blames Google
Advertising startup Unlockd on Wednesday announced it will no longer be pursuing plans to list on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), and instead has moved the company into voluntary administration.
According to the two year-old company, it was forced to place its planned initial public offering (IPO) on hold and “take a stand” after Google threatened to remove its apps from the Google Play Store and deny it access to its ad server Admob.
Unlockd said such action from the search engine giant would cause its 330,000 monthly users “irreparable harm and disruption”.
Since Google made the threat, Unlockd said it has received “significant” judgements from both the English High Court and the Federal Court of Australia granting it interim injunctions to prevent Google from disabling AdMob-generated advertising content and removing Unlockd apps from the Google Play Store in the UK, Europe, and Australia.
“This was recognition by the Courts that there is a serious issue to be tried,” the company wrote in a statement. “Despite this, the ramifications of Google’s actions have had and continue to have a deep impact on the business.”
Unlockd said after postponing its IPO it was unable to secure the capital it needed to replace the IPO, and therefore was left no choice but to move into voluntary administration.
“Until wide reaching change is brought about to prevent companies like Google from abusing their dominant market positions, consumers, and innovation will continue to suffer,” the company added.
“Unlockd’s board of directors and management are now working with administrators to decide on the best path forward for the business and continue to assess current discussions regarding investment and potential acquisition.”
The European Commission in June last year fined Google for abusing its market dominance as a search engine to promote its own comparison shopping service, displaying it more prominently in search results than those of its rivals.
In August, Google agreed to comply with demands from the EU to alter its shopping search results, after getting hit with a €2.4 billion fine.
Although a Google spokesperson told ZDNet at the time it had informed the commission of its planned remedies to comply with the decision, it did not offer detail on how it planned to change its practices.
A blog post penned by senior vice president Kent Walker did say the search engine giant disagreed with the European Commission’s argument that Google Shopping results were harming competition.
“We believe these claims are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics,” he wrote at the time.
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