SOCAN applauds landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision on illegal websites

June 29, 2017

The Supreme Court of Canada's June 28, 2017, judgment that Canadian courts have the power to compel search engines to take action to remove illegal websites from search results worldwide was resoundingly applauded by SOCAN.

The decision has broad implications for intellectual property law and provides further protection to intellectual property owners for the use of their works on the Internet. Intellectual property owners can now seek an order requiring Internet intermediaries to remove access to infringing websites worldwide.

In Equustek Solutions Inc. v Google, Equustek Solutions of British Columbia manufactures networking devices. Another company, Datalink, acquired confidential information and trade secrets of Equustek and began manufacturing and selling Equustek’s products as its own on its websites. Equustek sought to have the websites de-indexed and removed from Google’s search engine. Google refused to do so without a court order.

The court decided that although Google was not guilty of any wrongdoing itself, including the Datalink websites on the Google search engine facilitated the harm done to Equustek, and the court ordered Google to de-index the infringing websites to prevent further harm to Equustek. Noting the global nature of the Internet, the court required Google to de-index all of Datalink’s infringing websites from its search engine across the world.

Music industry organizations from around world intervened to support Equustek’s case that Google must take on the responsibility to ensure it is not directing users to illegal sites. These included: IFPI, representing the recording industry worldwide; WIN, representing the global independent music industry; ICMP, representing music publishers; and CISAC, representing authors and composers globally.

“This decision upholds the rights of music creators and publishers, and SOCAN strongly approves," said Eric Baptiste, CEO of SOCAN. "Online intermediaries must work with us and all ethical and law-abiding organizations and individuals to deter the unlicensed use of copyright music. As a frequent point-of-entry to the online market, search engines should be careful not to contribute to the promotion of unlawful websites.”