Parker v. Google, Inc.

NOTES: This case was not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter. Furthermore, this opinion includes a discussion of alleged direct, contributory and vicarious copyright violations, among other issues. This summary excludes those issues, instead focusing on the panel’s Section 230 discussion.

DATE: Filed July 10, 2007

COURT: United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit (before Barry, Chagares and Roth, Circuit Judges. Per Curiam opinion)

PLAINTIFF: Gordon Roy Parker (pro se)

DEFENDANTS: Google, Inc. and John Does # 1-50,000

MATERIAL ALLEGATIONS: “Google operates a website at http://www.google.com. This website includes an Internet search engine that allows users to search for websites, products and images among other things. Google’s automatic search technology operates by “crawling” the Internet so that the content can be organized in a searchable index. In the course of “crawling” the Internet, Google makes a copy of each website and stores it in a “cache.” When a user conducts a search, Google provides a list of results and often includes an excerpt from the matched site.”

“Google also provides users with the ability to access, search and post messages to the USENET. The USENET is a global system of online bulletin boards. In 2000, Google purchased an archive of USENET postings dating back to 1981. Google’s USENET archive contains more than 845 million messages. A user can search the USENET archive using several different criteria, including, but not limited to the author, date, keywords, phrases and/or subject material.”

“[P]arker alleged that he is an Internet publisher. He has published works on the Internet under the name Snodgrass Publishing Group. Parker stated that he owns a copyright for his work entitled “29 Reasons Not to be a Nice Guy.” Parker alleged that a third-party copied “Reason # 6” and posted it to the USENET without his permission. Furthermore, Parker alleged that Google provided users with links to websites that portrayed him negatively when users utilized Google’s Internet search engine.”

CAUSES OF ACTION: (1) direct copyright infringement; (2) contributory copyright infringement; (3) vicarious copyright infringement; (4) defamation; (5) invasion of privacy; (6) negligence; (7) Lanham Act violations; racketeering against Google; racketeering against seduction community; (10) abuse of process; and (11) civil conspiracy.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, R. Barclay Surrick, District Judge granted Google’s motion to dismiss the complaint (some counts with prejudice per FRCP 12(b)(6), some counts without prejudice per FRCP 8(a)). Parker earlier had requested an entry of judgment pursuant to FRCP 58(d) if his attempts to amend the complaint and obtain reconsideration failed. Both conditions later satisfied, the District Court entered judgment against Parker. Parker then appealed.

PROCEDURAL ACTION TAKEN HERE: Affirmed

OUTCOME: Section 230 bars plaintiff’s defamation, invasion of privacy and negligence claims.

OPINION: The panel considered plaintiff’s claims of defamation, invasion of privacy and negligence in light of Section 230. “Parker’s defamation claim is based on comments posted about Parker to the USENET as well as statements located on a website that was available through Google’s Internet search engine. Parker also alleged that Google invaded his privacy by creating an unauthorized biography of him whenever someone “googled” his name into the search engine. Additionally, Parker alleged that Google was negligent because it continued to archive a website which contained negative statements about Parker even after Parker put Google on notice.”

“Parker’s claims for defamation, invasion of privacy and negligence arise from Parker’s allegations that Google failed to address harmful content posted by others against him on the Internet. Parker did not assert in the first amended complaint that Google is the information content provider of the statements at issue. We agree with the District Court that Section 230 bars these three claims against Google.” [citation omitted].

UPDATE: The Supreme Court of the United States denied Parker’s October 9, 2007 petition for a writ of certiorari on January 14, 2008 (Docket No. 07-8111).