Dozier Internet Law has commented extensively on the issue of the erosion of US influence on the law of the web. In the US, we have the immunity from liability for Google under the Communications Decency Act and some state laws, and in the US defamation is a civil matter. The concern, of course, is that we have become accustomed to following the US laws and expecting everyone else around the world to take our lead in regulating the web.
Reuters reports that a criminal prosecutor in Italy has ordered Google executives (reportedly the former Chairman of Google Italy, a former Google Italy Board Member, the former head of Google Video for Europe, and an EU privacy executive) to appear in a Milan court on February 3, 2009 to begin to face charges of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data.
At Dozier Internet Law we are seeing an explosion of legislation, court decisions, and regulatory enactments conflicting with the notions we hold dear to our hearts in the US. This type of situation will continue to escalate as states and countries around the world exercise their value judgments in controlling the web. In the US we already have broad free speech protections in place, and the "free speech expansionists" Dozier Internet Law deals with on a regular basis are "missing the forest for the trees". Every time they argue that notions of free expression and free speech should be extended into the online world in unprecedented ways, the global community shakes its head and says to itself..."well, there go the Americans again". A little bit of discretion and foresight might be appropriate if we are to maintain our leadership position in the law of the online world.
I think it is unlikely the far left, liberal minded, free speech fanatics will ever change. Let's hope someone out there steps up and shows the rest of the world that the US is worthy of its leadership position in regulating the online world, and maybe then we'll have a seat at the table when the incredibly complicated international conflict of laws issues are front and center. The last I checked, the EU countries had no First Amendment, the Middle East region had no First Amendment, the African nations had no First Amendment, etc.....but they all certainly have expansive notions of the reach of their laws (known to lawyers as "personal jurisdiction").
So, for Dozier Internet Law business clients, celebrate the global nature of the web, appreciate the ability to reach anyone anywhere at anytime, and respect this new society for what it is...a fledgling and scary work in progress. Just ask those Google execs.