Can someone tell this Italian Judge what Google Video is?

Sometimes I despair of Europe, even though I’m proud of what can be achieved here. But really, guys, can we get it together?

At the same time the European Union is investigating a pretty flimsy anti-trust complaint against Google, it’s conspiciously ignoring a case in Italy where three Google executives have been found guilty on a ridiculous charge. Here is the bizarre story.

An Italian court yesterday convicted two current and one former Google exec in a trial over a video showing a teenager being bullied. The Google Italy employees were accused of breaking Italian law by allowing the video of bullying of a teenager with autism to be posted on YouTube Google Video in late 2006.

Despite the fact that Google removed the video within hours of being notified of its existence, Judge Oscar Magi (pictured) absolved the three of defamation but convicted them of privacy violations. The three executives have received a suspended six-month sentence, while a fourth defendant was acquitted. Google is appealing the sentences on their behalf.

Google has responded in a justifiably vociferous blog post calling this a “serious threat to the web in Italy”. Frankly they are right.

As Google explains:

In late 2006 Students at a school in Turin, Italy filmed and then uploaded a video to Google Video that showed them bullying an autistic schoolmate. The video was totally reprehensible and we took it down within hours of being notified by the Italian police. We also worked with the local police to help identify the person responsible for uploading it and she was subsequently sentenced to 10 months community service by a court in Turin, as were several other classmates who were also involved. In these rare but unpleasant cases, that’s where our involvement would normally end.

However, a public prosecutor in Milan decided to indict the four Google employees —David Drummond, Arvind Desikan, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes. These guys left the company in 2008.

The charges were for criminal defamation and a failure to comply with the Italian privacy code.

Now, why did someone not explain to this idiot judge that the video was NOT uploaded by these Google executives?


Now Drummond, Fleischer and Reyes have been convicted.

In other words an Italian court has found that employees of an internet company are criminally responsible for content that users upload.

The court is ignoring existing European law which gives hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence.

It’s at this point one wonders if we should just give up on Italy as ever getting the Internet.

Google is appealing the decision, obviously.

Look, Italy needs to get its act together and fast.

I’m calling on Italian entreprenuers, many of whom I know and respect to get involved in this issue.

At a time when European countries are weighed down by regulation and stupid rulings like this one, especially during a period of huge economic upheaval, it is not enough to stand by and watch travesties like this go by.

Do the young people of Italy and the rest of Europe, so many of whom are huge enthusiasts of the Web and the power it gives them to drag themselves up by their bootraps without the need for state help, deserve to have decrepit judges decide their economic future?

I think not.

UPDATE: As commenters note below, the Judge in question is on Facebook, so he presumably knows what user generated content is. In which case why this bizarre judgement?