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View Full Version : Can you be sued for cached Google pages?


mgarrison
07-14-2005, 07:37 PM
I am currently being threatened with legal action related to web site content that I have removed from my site. The issue concerns the naming of an individual as a "husband" of someone, when in fact they were a "common-law spouse".

I have removed the offending page (it didn't matter to me one way or another), but Google is still holding a cached copy.

The lawyers for that person are threatening legal action unless I take down my whole web site. Obviously I am not going to take down my entire site, especially as it has nothing to do with what Google shows in its cache.

So, can I be held liable for something Google has on it's own server? I don't think so, but these lawyers seem to disagree.

For copies of their letters, see http://www.hamersleyfamily.com/rights.htm

Thanks,
Marina

Randolph
08-03-2005, 12:24 PM
wow..this guy sounds like a real pleasant person (the guy suing).

anyway, any update on what happened here?

Marketing Guy
08-03-2005, 01:07 PM
The lawyers clearly dont have a clue as to how the web works, so there's not much they can do (that doesn't mean to say they won't try).

I would seek legal advice if you are concerned.

Personally, I wouldn't take my site down for them, and I wouldn't make any efforts to resolve the cache issue - if they want to spend time doing it, then let them. But I'm a stubborn son of a *****! ;) Depending on what kinda mood I was in, I would probably berate them in some way too. :rolleyes:

I don't know about your local laws, but I would say that 1 day notice to remove an entire site is completely unreasonable, and no more than a scare tactic used to pressure you into action, especially given that the action won't have the desired result. They clearly haven't researched the subject area and are just doing what every two-bit lawyer does - talks big and tried to blag it.

What's more, they are continuing their "big and scarey" approach by using excessively harsh language - refering to "false information" when it was, at worst, simply inaccurate.

I think this is the key though:

"As such, you may be liable for any damage caused by the dissemination of false information that originated on your website."

They don't know. ;) Certainly not (IMO) in a position to demand anything.

Again, just my opinion - I'd speak to a lawyer for some real advice instead of random musings.

MG

Randolph
08-03-2005, 01:17 PM
if you wanted to be really catty, you could always find your own lawyer to counter sue the person and counsel for emotional/professional stress, and forcing you to make unnecessary changes to your site.

although, it may be best just to let it die :)

Marketing Guy
08-03-2005, 01:20 PM
Hehe I like how you think! ;)

mcanerin
08-03-2005, 01:29 PM
In a more practical vein ;) , you can go here:

http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/remove.html#uncache

and use the URL removal tool to remove the page (not your site just the pages with the issue).

Then what you do is nothing. Google will remove the page totally (including it's cache) and then forget that it did so. The next time it comes back, it will treat it as a new page and re-index it, with the new cache and content.

Rather odd that someone would freak out over being referred to as husband rather than common-law. I'd be tempted to send back a single line letter saying "de minimus non curat lex" and let them figure it out. :D

But that's just me - I don't know the whole story.

Ian

Alan Perkins
08-03-2005, 01:47 PM
The cached content is on Google's site, not yours. The problem lies between the aggrieved party and Google.

Ian's correct that you can use the URL removal tool to help smooth things out. :)

Mikkel deMib Svendsen
08-03-2005, 02:00 PM
You should read read up on some of the stuff PUD (the guy that did F'ed Company) did. He used to get such letters every week and never did anything about it.

I have also got quite a bit of letters like that over time - mostly from crazy Americans :D One of the more funny ones was from a guy named Bernard Shifman that apparently did not like that I called him a "Moron Spammer" - and actually I was just quoting this website (http://petemoss.com/spamflames/ShifmanIsAMoronSpammer.html). I did what I most often do ... nothing. Not even a reply to the stupid guy. But thats just me and I am here in Denmark far away from those crazy Americans :p

Alan Perkins
08-03-2005, 02:03 PM
Yep, it's a mad world. The correct answer to "Can you be sued for cached Google pages?" is "You can be sued for virtually anything". Whether the suit has any merit or will be successful are different matters.

PhilC
08-03-2005, 02:08 PM
Laws tend to be sensible, and they don't expect people to do things that are beyond their capabilities - e.g. getting rid of Google's cache in the time they gave. Silly/unknowledgable people can make silly demands and threaten legal action if they are not met, but, if it is beyond the person's capabilites to meet the demands, the law won't insist that should have done.

I can imagine some circumstances where damage could be caused to a person by being referred to as a husband instead of a common-law spouse, but it seems to me they have already accepted whatever the current situation is and decided not to take action against you. So, as long as you do what you can to get rid of the cache, I don't think they have a leg to stand on in legal action terms.

I assume that you've written an apology and explained the situation regarding the cache, and told them that you've taken every step available to you to do as they wish. I say "apology" because there really are some circumstances where being referred to as a husband in a public publication can cause problems for somebody. The chances are that it's just a bit of pig-headedness, but it may not be.

Alan Perkins
08-03-2005, 02:22 PM
I've just read the second letter...We hereby demand that you immediately take down your website until this problem is rectified so that [snip]ís name no longer comes up as linked to your website in a Google search of his name. Taking down your site would not stop this happening. In fact, if you removed the page which did not contain his name from your site, searchers would be more likely to look at the cached copy which does contain his name. :D

Bear in mind that by publishing those doc files, his name is now back on your site and may be indexed again (doc files can be indexed). You may wish to remove or edit the letters in order to save yourself further aggravation.

PhilC
08-03-2005, 05:10 PM
But they don't suggest that he is the husband of...., and writing about a particular person doesn't require permission - or there'd be no news.

Alan Perkins
08-03-2005, 05:39 PM
writing about a particular person doesn't require permissionI didn't say it did. :)

mgarrison
08-03-2005, 08:10 PM
Thank you to everyone who responded with advice. This is the latest news:

I responded to the lawyer explaining how Google works and that taking down my site wouldn't help. I went on to say that "legally" (although I wasn't absolutely sure about this!) it was between them and Google, but as a gesture of goodwill I would submit a cache removal request to Google on their behalf (which I did).

Google did remove the cached copy of the original offending page. However, the lawyer's recently discovered a 2nd page and contacted me again (in a much less threatening vein) to have the 2nd page cache removed. I have again submitted a cache removal request.

They certainly seemed to tone their requests down once I stood my ground. I think they were trying to bully me and didn't expect me to resist. I thought it was important not to back down but to be reasonable (just in case they actually did sue me!).

PhilC
08-03-2005, 08:16 PM
That sounds good, Marina. I doubt they could have done anything legally, but it sounds like you handled it well.

mcanerin
08-03-2005, 08:40 PM
It's nice to see that this is working out for you, and also nice to see that Google is responding quickly and effectively, as well.

Now, all we need to do is educate the legal profession on how search engines work...

Ian

ukgimp
08-05-2005, 09:34 AM
have you considered creating a page to outrank the one with more incorrect information, just to wind them up. Separate it from yourself and have some fun?

feenikz
08-06-2005, 05:55 PM
In my opinion its not your problem anymore. You've been good enough to remove the stuff as they have requested in a timely manner no less.

mgarrison
08-08-2005, 06:52 PM
Hi Everyone
I got another letter today from the lawyers. Apparently removal of the cached pages is NOT good enough, they now want the snippets removed.

They are now also aggravated about the letters (although these don't contain any false or misleading information) and were not marked confidential, privileged, private or anything similar.

While I will apply to have the snippets removed (after all, in order for the application to work a change has to be made to the meta tags) I do not plan on removing the letters until I have confirmation that they do not plan on taking any legal action regarding my site.

This whole thing seems to me to be ridiculous and must be costing their client a fortune in their services. And for what? Because he is worried about being stated as a husband and not a common-law husband....

Marina

Alan Perkins
08-08-2005, 07:03 PM
If the pages are not indexed then there are no snippets.

If the pages are indexed, you need to use NOSNIPPET in the meta robots tag, rather than NOARCHIVE, in order to prevent snippets being displayed in the search results:

<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="nosnippet">

I did warn you about those letters. They contain the guy's name and may be indexed. It's why I excluded his name from my posts on this forum. The lawyers have already demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the Internet in general and search technology in particular. ;)

PhilC
08-08-2005, 09:15 PM
Shouldn't that be 'as well as' and not 'instead of', Allan?

Alan Perkins
08-09-2005, 05:33 AM
No, nosnippet (http://www.google.com/remove.html#remove_snippets) also removes cached pages. You don't need noarchive as well.

PhilC
08-09-2005, 08:13 AM
I didn't know that.

rogerd
08-11-2005, 12:01 AM
When you get these kinds of communications, it's often easiest to remove the offending content and move on. Where removal would be inconvenient, though, or the initial letter was overly annoying, I've sent back a polite request for clarification as to the legal grounds for removal (knowing that I'm on reasonably solid ground). Most of the time I never hear back. :)

mgarrison
08-11-2005, 12:47 PM
Hi Rogerd
My point is that I originally did remove the offending content but that wasn't enough for the lawyers as Google still retained both a snippet and a cached page.

MGarrison