Google not liable for vanity search results-US court

Wed Mar 6, 2013 12:22pm EST

* Woman unhappy with results of Internet searches for name

* Results link to ads for drugs to treat sexual dysfunction

* 7th Circuit says privacy rights not violated

By Jonathan Stempel

March 6 (Reuters) - A Wisconsin woman trying to protect her "wholesome" image failed to persuade a federal appeals court to hold Google Inc liable because searches for her name could lead people to advertisements for drugs to treat sexual dysfunction.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said on Wednesday Beverly Stayart did not show that Google violated Wisconsin privacy laws by misusing her name to generate advertising revenue.

Stayart claimed that a search for "bev stayart" on the world's largest search engine generates a recommended search for "bev stayart levitra," which can direct users to websites that offer treatments for male erectile dysfunction.

The Elkhorn, Wisconsin resident said this was at odds with her "positive and wholesome image" linked to her advocacy for animal rights, her research in genealogy, her published poems and her MBA degree from the University of Chicago.

But a three-judge appeals court panel said Google's alleged improper use of Stayart's name fell within the "public interest" and "incidental use" exceptions to Wisconsin's misappropriation laws, either of which would doom the lawsuit.

Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote that the search "bev stayart levitra" was a matter of public interest because Stayart had made it one by suing Google, and by previously suing rival Yahoo Inc over similar claims, which she lost.

Williams also said that nothing in Stayart's lawsuit suggested a "substantial rather than incidental" link between her name and Google's effort to use it to generate revenue.

Stayart's lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The decision took the 7th Circuit more than 11 months after oral arguments to issue. It upheld a March 2011 ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee.

Bayer AG and GlaxoSmithKline Plc sell Levitra, also known by its chemical name, vardenafil.

The case is Stayart v. Google Inc, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 11-03012.

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Comments (1)
Yes, search engines should stick to the Yellow Pages only soliciting of people’s information, so things could become what people would in the name of ‘people must have ability somehow to control their own lives’, and Yellow Pages do not disturb over that right of people. But because they disturb, because one cannot control their own lives online, and because in many ways online is a sect: For example, one in three Europeans were found to blame Facebook for their divorce and one in five Americans blame Facebook for their divorce. If somebody told me that an entity is blamed for one in three divorces, I could only think it must be a sect. The realm is a sect which we can show, and these matters are not just disturbing where people lose rights of control over their own lives, but a problem of extortion, involving primarily Facebook and Google. Extortion is where people lose their own will and control and so to speak underground elements dictate grounds instead.

But it is like arguing against a sect, and we have little space for reasonable crowds. Basically, the internet became one giant sect.

Mar 06, 2013 10:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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