A Victorian man has been awarded $200,000 in damages, in the Victorian Supreme Court for hurt feelings and loss of reputation after Google’s automatic search software linked Mr Milorad “Michael” Trkulja’s name to a website, now defunct, called “Melbourne Crime”, and also placed his photo alongside alleged criminals in its Google Image listing.
The images were posted after Mr Trkulja, a Serbian Orthodox Church Elder was shot in the back by an unknown gunman while eating with his elderly mother at a St Albans restaurant in June 2004.
When Mr Trkulja’s name was typed into Google’s image search, photos had appeared of him alongside gangland figure Tony Mokbel and linked him to the website referred above.
While the jury’s decision that the publication of photos of Mr Trkulja alongside photos of alleged crime figures was defamatory does not set a legal precedent, the judge’s treatment of Google as a content publisher could.
Google used the ‘‘innocent dissemination’’ defence, arguing it was providing links to the content without knowing that the material was defamatory but were unsuccessful in this argument. The argument failed because Google failed to remove the images after they had been contacted by Mr Trkulja’s lawyers previously.
Future court cases are likely to use this case as a reference in determining whether a search engine is legally responsible for the material it publishes.
Mr Trkulja also won $225,000.00 in damages in a similar case against Yahoo in March 2012.
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