How a Melbourne Man Won Defamation Case vs Google -- David vs Goliath?

By @jotfields on

Google should have not ignored his request.

A Melbourne man had asked Google to remove images of him alongside a convicted druglord in the search engine's results page. Google's lawyers said the search engine was not the publisher of the content. But a jury at the Victoria Supreme Court on Thursday slammed Google for not responding to a defamation notice.

Michael Trkulja had first reached out to Google in 2009. He asked the internet giant to remove images of him that appeared alongside photos of drug trafficker Tony Mokbel. The images in question showed up when Mr Trkulja's name was searched online.

Mokbel was sentenced in July this year to a 22 to 30 years' jail time over drug trafficking charges. Trkulja said he was defamed by the association of his images with a felon.

Trkulja, who has been living in Australia for 42 years, was shot by a hitman at a Melbourne restaurant in 2004. He said people could get the impression that he was involved in criminal activities because of the search results.

Google search results for Mr Trkulja's name had also linked to a page on a now dead website, Melbourne Crime.

Mr Trkulja said he did not think the situation could balloon into a legal battle. But when his request was refused, he had to find other ways.

Google's "innocent dissemination" lost in Australian court

Google's lawyers said the search engine merely indexed web pages, hence, Mr Trkulja's images appeared by "innocent dissemination."

However, a Supreme Court jury said Google should have taken the necessary steps to remove Mr Trkulja's images after he and his lawyers have raised defamation as an issue surrounding the images.

Victoria Supreme Court's Justice David Beach is expected to deliver a ruling on damages on Monday, Nov. 5.

'It was a David and Goliath battle'

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Trkulja said the case is about "a single man standing against a giant using all money and power available to them to squash an innocent person."

"It was a David and Goliath battle," he said.

This is not Mr Trkulja's first legal victory against an internet giant. He filed a similar case against Yahoo! in March and won the "battle," too. He was awarded $225,000 in damages.

Google has yet to release a statement on the matter. Today, when an internet user search for Michael Trkulja, the results page show the court's ruling on his case against Google.

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