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Google executives face criminal defamation trial in Italy

[JURIST] Executives from Google, Inc. will go on trial Tuesday in Italy for criminal defamation arising out of Google Video [corporate websites] content depicting a disabled boy being teased and bullied. The defendants include [Financial Times report] product marketing manager Arvind Desikan, former CFO George Reyes, chief legal officer David Drummond, and privacy executive Peter Fleischer. The charges, which also include breach of Italy's privacy code, could result in up to three years in prison if convictions are reached. The video, which involves a boy with Down syndrome who was teased by four others, was hosted on the streaming video site for two months before being removed. Google is defending itself [PCWorld report] on the grounds that the video was removed as soon as the company was aware of its presence and that they have fully cooperated with Italian authorities. The prosecutor alleges that the boy's privacy was violated by the company failing to prevent the posting of the video. According to Italian law, Internet content providers are responsible for third-party postings. Google has previously stated [CNET report] that "seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet."

Google has been involved in litigation in the US, mainly involving copyright issues. In April, US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] officials began looking into [JURIST report] whether a copyright infringement settlement agreement [JURIST report] involving Google Books [corporate website] violates anti-trust laws. The two lawsuits that resulted in the settlement were originally brought against Google in 2005. In September 2005, the Authors Guild alleged [JURIST report] "massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers." The lawsuit accused Google of engaging in unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Print Library Project [Google backgrounder; advocacy copyright analysis, PDF]. The other lawsuit, brought by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [trade website] in October 2005, alleged that Google infringed copyrights [JURIST report] held by a number of publishing companies when it scanned the entire book collections of several universities to make them searchable online.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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