Google hit with $255k damages over images

Last updated 14:32 12/11/2012
Michael Trkulja
DEFAMED: Michael Trkulja.

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A Melbourne man who won a defamation case against search engine giant Google has been awarded A$200,000 (NZ$255,000) in damages.

Milorad Trkulja, also known as Michael, sued the multinational over images of him alongside a well-known underworld figure that appeared in its search results.

A six-person Supreme Court jury found last month that Mr Trkulja had been defamed by the images, which he first contacted Google about removing in 2009.

The images were posted after Mr Trkulja was shot in the back by an unknown gunman while eating with his elderly mother at a St Albans restaurant in June 2004.

When Mr Trkulja's name was typed into Google's image search, photos had appeared of him alongside gangland figure Tony Mokbel.

Google search results also linked to a page on a now defunct website, Melbourne Crime, which had published photos labelled with his name.

Mr Trkulja said he had never initially intended to sue Google but had been galvanised into action after his request for the content to be removed from its searches in 2009 was not granted.

Supreme Court Justice David Beach this morning said in awarding the damages that the case was about ''vindication and 'nailing the lie'''.

Mr Trkulja, an elder at a Serbian Orthodox Church in Springvale, also won A$225,000 (NZ$287,000) in damages from Yahoo earlier this year over the same matter.

Google's lawyers argued the search engine was not the publisher of the material and was only indexing the link to the website and the images in its results.

The company used the ''innocent dissemination'' defence, arguing it was providing links to the content without knowing that the material was defamatory.

However, the jury found Google's defence of the images broke down because it did not take any steps to remove the images from its searches once Mr Trkulja's lawyers contacted the company. The jury found the search engine was not liable for the search results themselves, as Mr Trkulja had incorrectly filled out a form for reporting offensive material by not including the URL of the content to which he objected.

The website that hosted the image has since been taken down and the images or the article are no longer indexed by Google's search engine.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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