HONG KONG – A judge has given permission for the Internet giant Google to appeal an earlier ruling that Hong Kong has jurisdiction over a defamation case brought by Emperor Motion Pictures chairman and business tycoon Albert Yeung Sau-shing.
The case relates to searches of Yeung’s name on Google and suggestions made by the auto-complete function. In both Chinese and English versions auto-complete proposes the word ‘triad,’ a reference to Hong Kong organized crime syndicates, when searching for Yeung.
Yeung accuses Google of libel and is seeking to have Google remove the organized crime references.
In August, Google had tried to have the case dismissed before it could go to trial. It argued first that the Hong Kong courts do not have jurisdiction over the company, and second that Google cannot be held responsible for search suggestions. It argued that auto-complete suggestions use an algorithm driven by the search terms that a certain number of users are using.
In a written ruling this week, First Instance Deputy Judge Madam Marlene Ng May-ling said it would be inappropriate for her to stand in the way of such a test case. She called it: “an appeal that will hopefully bring enlightenment by the Court of Appeal in this new and uneasy area of defamation law.”
In submissions last week, Google’s barrister argued that the company was not a publisher, and that Yeung’s definition of defamation was a novel, developing one that involved an evolving area of the law.”
Yeung’s lawyers said that the developing area of law did not allow Google to challenge the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong courts.
EMP is one of the three largest Hong Kong film groups, operating as financier, producer, and co-distributor. In mainland China the company recently opened the first of a chain of multiplex cinemas. EMP was this year involved with Dante Lam’s “The Demon Within,” which premiered in Berlin, and last year was a co-producer of Johnnie To’s “Blind Detective,” which screened in Cannes. It was previously producer on Lu Chuan’s “The Last Supper,” Feng Xiaogang’s “Aftershock” and Jiang Wen’s “Let The Bullets Fly.”