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Google’s autocomplete function – is Google a publisher or mere technical distributor? German Federal Supreme Court, Judgment of May 14, 2012 – Case No. VI ZR 269/12 – Google Autocomplete

Karl-Nikolaus Peifer

Keywords: autocomplete function; defamation; false statements; technical distributor; internet service provider (ISP); liability for interference; duty of care

In a prominent case, the German Federal Supreme Court ruled that Google is liable for messages, which the autocomplete function of its search engine forms by combining various user requests. The Court even assessed that these messages constitute proper information by Google because the ISP has control over the technical device and its functioning. However, the ISP is not seen as a pure intellectual disseminator. It is liable for false statements and other infringements of personality interests from the moment it receives notice about them. The Court decision raises a whole set of further questions and leaves some of them completely unanswered.

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