Syndicat National de l’Edition Phonographique c/ Société Google France et autre
Cass, Civ 1, 12.07.2012 :
Parties: Syndicat National de l’Edition Phonographique c/ Société Google France et autre
Subject: Illegal downloading/Google's liability
The Syndicat national de l'édition phonographique (SNEP) represents, in France, a number of companies belonging to the recording industry, including holders of copyrights to their recordings, related rights, in their capacity as producers of recordings and licensees of the rights of the recording artists.
SNEP submitted the evidence that the functionality Google Suggestions of the search engine Google, which automatically proposes supplementary search terms associated with those of the initial request, suggests keywords such as "torrent", "Megaupload", or "Rapidshare" in combination with the names of artists, or titles of songs or albums. These terms refer, in particular, to a file sharing system and file hosting sites allowing, inter alia, the illegal download of certain recordings.
SNEP brought an action seeking an order compelling Google to delete the terms at issue proposed by their search engine.
The Cour d'Appel [Court of Appeal] dismissed SNEP's action, holding that such suggestions do not infringe copyright, in particular to the extent that:
- The files located on such sites "are not all necessarily intended for illegal downloads; in fact, the sharing of files containing protected works, in particular, musical works, without authorisation does not render the sites themselves unlawful. It is in fact the use made of them by those who place files on the sites and use them that may become unlawful."
- "The automatic suggestion of these sites cannot generate the infringement of a copyright or a related right unless the person carrying out the search goes to the suggested site and downloads a protected recording that can be found as a file on these sites; the Google companies cannot be held liable for any possibly illegal content of files shared on the incriminated sites, or for the acts of persons using the search engine. Downloading the files requires a voluntary act of the person in question, for which the Google companies cannot be held liable."
The Cour de Cassation [Supreme Court] held that the service offered by Google systematically directed visitors to sites offering the download of unauthorised recordings of artists or producers holding related rights, and that the measures requested by SNEP sought to prevent or procure the cessation of this infringement by deleting the automatic association of the keywords with the search terms by the Google companies, which could thus contribute to the of the infringement by making it more difficult to find the sites at issue.
The Cour de Cassation reversed the decision of the Cour d'appel.