The Wall Street Journal has reported that an Indian company is suing a blogger for defamation. A Wired blog is predicting a win for that company.

In case you aren’t familiar with the case. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • “Toxic Writer”, an anonymous blogger, made some comments about the company
  • The company, Gremach Infrastructure Equipments & Projects Ltd., is based in Mumbai, India
  • The allegation is that the blogger is engaging in “hate speech”
  • The blog’s been removed, but the Blogger.com subsidiary, based in India, is claiming no responsibility

According to some legal experts, countries that were once a British colony see these types of lawsuits often. This is perhaps the most high profile of the cases of this sort. What makes it so special, however, is one simple fact of the law: Any company doing business in any country in the world is subject to the local laws, regardless of its country of origin.

Google is a U.S. company. If the same suit happened in the U.S. then Google would likely win. But India has no first amendment and companies fighting this type of suit in those countries typically lose. That means Google will have to change its operating policies for bloggers in that country. But this is where it gets sticky.

The blogger is being threatened with loss of anonymity. Doesn’t he have a right to privacy? The real issue here is the crossroad between a blogger’s right to blog anonymously and the right of the company to have nothing defamatory said about it. If the blogger wins then all is well (except for the company). If the company wins, the blogger not only loses anonymity in India, but in every country in the world.

What if a U.S. citizen, blogging anonymously, makes an off-hand comment about an international company headquartered in India, or another country with no first amendment law? Which court has jurisdiction? Furthermore, which nation’s laws will be applied to the situation?

Will the U.S. blogger be subject to Indian laws? Will Google? Since search engine results can theoretically be viewed in any country, based on personal preferences and geographic concerns as applied by Google’s algorithms, you can see how these situations could lead to some sticky case law. Either every search engine headquartered in every country will have to adopt a different policy to reflect the local laws of each nation in which it operates or an international body governing Internet search and publishing will need to be created to maintain a consistent legal policy that governs the entire world’s policy regarding defamation, copyright, and related issues.

The only question left to answer is, Which path will be taken? 

Allen Taylor is an award-winning journalist and writes News and Media Blog at http://newsandmediablog.com.

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