A GERMAN COURT has ruled that Google must block photos of a sadomasochistic orgy involving former Formula One boss Max Mosley, two months after a similar ruling in France.
The court said the six images taken from a video of the orgy that was filmed by Britain’s now defunct News of the World tabloid newspaper seriously breached Mosley’s privacy.
Google immediately said it would appeal the German court’s decision, saying it sent a “disturbing message”.
The US technology firm must prevent the pictures being shown on its German-based google.de site, including via links on its search engine, the court in the northern city of Hamburg ruled today.
“In the court’s view, the pictures offered seriously violate the plaintiff’s privacy,” said chief judge Simone Kaefer.
A court statement on the judgement noted that the serious infringement was due to the photos showing Mosley performing sexual acts, stating:
In this particular case it’s therefore not conceivable that the pictures could be allowed to be published in any context.
If Google continues to allow the pictures to be seen, it faces a fine of up to €250,000 per individual case, according to the ruling.
The defence team representing Mosley welcomed the verdict, which, it said in a statement, “finally creates legal certainty in a blatant case of privacy rights violations”.
German DPA news agency quoted his lawyer Tanja Irion as describing it as a “milestone for the protection of privacy rights on the internet” and denying it would lead to online censorship.
The ruling is the latest in a string of legal battles waged by 73-year-old Mosley related to the publication of the video and a 2008 article published by the Rupert Murdoch-owned British newspaper alleging it was a Nazi-themed orgy.
Mosley successfully took the publisher of the News of the World to court over the Nazi claim, winning £60,000 (€73,000 euros) in damages when the judge ruled there was no Nazi element.
In November a French court also ordered Google to prevent its search engine from providing links to nine images of the orgy, prompting the US internet giant to similarly announce it would appeal and argue it raised fears over costly and heavy-handed automated censorship of the internet.
“Even if it refers to an individual person and specific content, today’s verdict nevertheless sends a disturbing message,” Google said in a statement today.
“It could lead to internet service providers being obligated to monitor even the smallest elements of content which they transmit or save for their users,” it said.
“In our opinion this violates European law,” it added.
After Mosley won his case in the British court, he then, in 2011, took his fight to France which has some of the world’s toughest privacy laws.
A French court fined NoW’s owner, Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, €10,000 after ruling that Mosley’s right to privacy had been infringed by the publication of the images in editions of the newspaper sold in France.
Those rulings however failed to stop images from the orgy being widely circulated on the web and Mosley believes search engines have a duty to prevent users from accessing material deemed to have breached the law.
Mosley, whose father Oswald Mosley led a British fascist party in the 1930s, headed FIA, the governing body of world motorsport, for 16 years until 2009.