Friday, March 28, 2008

In France, link aggregators are held responsible for content!

So, in Martinez vs Fuzz, the suitor won the first leg. Fuzz's webmaster Eric Dupin has been condemned to a fee of 1,000 Euros for relaying a link that infringed Mr Martinez's privacy. What to make of it?

Well, it clarifies the notion of responsibility for web publishers: they are responsible for all content that can be found on their sites, including indirect content, i.e. links to content maintained on other sites. Or does it really? It seems to define a sort of holistic responsibility: what if the content is a link to a site that contains a link to incriminated content? Would that qualify as litigeous content? For instance, could be held responsible for providing a short url to replace one subject to sueing?

The second aspect which has not been considered in this regrettable affair is the intent of web publisher. Was it or not to do harm by publishing squander? In this paarticular case I know it was not, because, as an aggregator of content provided by users, Eric did not know everything that was published on his site.

The third aspect is about what harm was actually done to the plaintiff? To my knowledge, very little, apart from putting on the news front the name of an actor that a lot of people did not know. Furthermore, reported that Mr Martinez's lawyer refuted the rumor in a statement right after the publication of the judgement condemning Eric. Why wasn't that statement made in the first place prior to any sueing? Why didn't Mr Martinez or his lawyer contacted Eric for a settlement outside the court again prior to sueing? Was there a hidden agenda (like earning a bit of easy money...)?

We will watch the upcoming developments of this unfortunate affair, which has the potential to harm free speech on the web in the French blogosphere durably.

Stay tuned.