The long running Tamiz saga was finally put to bed yesterday when the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal against Google on the grounds of publication. In simple English terms the panel of three senior judges did not consider that enough people would have seen the comments complained of to truly have damaged Mr Tamiz’s reputation i.e. the age old adage of ‘the candle was not worth the game’ clearly permeated into the minds of the senior appeal judges, when they made their judgment.
However, although Mr Tamiz may have lost his appeal, his case – much like Michael TrKulja’s case in Australia – will no doubt have a major impact on the online defamation world, hence why specialist online defamation and internet lawyers were glued to this appeal as if it was the World Cup Final (what an interesting lot we are).
The Court of Appeal disagreed with the original ruling of Justice Eady where Google’s status as a ‘sue-able’ entity in libel proceedings is concerned. They instead decided that if Google does not act promptly following receipt of take down requests then they could be sued accordingly. This has been labelled as a blow to online blogging platforms and a shift away from them having a degree of immunity on the arguable basis as to whether they are publishers or not.
In practice this finding could now work two ways. Either we will see an uplift of cases against Google, which sees them in the firing line as the Defendant, or Google will take more prompt action following receipt of take down requests. However, this should be caveated somewhat, in so far as Google are not always that slow in acting on such requests and if they are not minded to take down arguably defamatory material within 5 weeks, it is unlikely they ever will unless of course they are sued. We will have to wait and see what the practical effects of this with actually be.
My gut instinct tells me that this Court of Appeal decision will mean that it is ‘open –season’ for cases against online blogging platforms with Google and WordPress most probably top of the pyre.
Head of Media and Sports Law