Global Freedom of Expression

Ordonnance du 16 Septembre 2014 (Google France Case)

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    September 16, 2014
  • Outcome
    Injunction or Order Granted
  • Case Number
    No RG 14/55975
  • Region & Country
    France, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Civil Law
  • Themes
    Privacy, Data Protection and Retention
  • Tags
    Google, Data Protection and Retention, Facebook, Blog, Internet, Right to be forgotten, Civil Defamation

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The subsidiary, Google France of a parent company,Google Inc. is established in a European Member State, and acts in the capacity as the company’s representative in the Member State. When the activities between the parent and subsidiary companies are indivisible, the parent company may be held liable for any injunctions imposed on the subsidiary company. Thus, an injunction and a fine can be imposed if the relationship between the two is sufficiently clear.



The case began with Dan Shefet, a lawyer in Paris who after winning a defamation suit had sued Google France in August 2013 and obtained a court order requiring both Google France and Google Inc. to remove the defamatory URLs. However, Google only took them down from while Google Inc. was unresponsive to subsequent requests for removal. Thus Shefet brought suit for enforcement of the injunction on a worldwide basis against Google France based on the ‘right to be forgotten’ as interpreted in the earlier Google Spain case.

In opposition to the claim brought, Google France submitted that firstly, it was not a data controller since it operated only to provide marketing and advertising services and not to perform any editorial actions or operate specific websites. Secondly, that the company liable in this case was actually Google Inc. and finally that the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to order erasure measures beyond those related to the search engine and intended for a French audience.

Decision Overview

Vice President of the Tribunal de Grand Instance Anne Desmure wrote the injunction order. The Tribunal found that Google Inc. operated the search engine and Google France was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google Inc. It was held that Google France works to promote advertising space and increase the profitability of Google Inc. Therefore, the Tribunal held, the principles enshrined in the 1995 European Data Protection Directive apply to Google France.  The Tribunal, quoting the ECJ May 2014 Google Spain case <<Les activités de l’exploitant du moteur de recherche et celles de son établissement situeé dans l’Etat membre concerné sont indissociablement liées>>, meaning that a subsidiary of Google Inc. established in a European Member State acts as the company’s representative in the Member State, because the activities of parent and subsidiary are indivisibly linked.

Ultimately the Tribunal held that the claims could not be limited only to links returned on because Google France did not and could not demonstrate that from within France it was not possible to use other domains of Google’s search engine.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

This case, depending on whether one is looking at the outcome from the point of view of the plaintiffs or Google can be considered as either expanding or contracting expression. From the perspective individual it increase the dominion they may exert over the expression of their reputation, but online facilitators of expression such as Google may consider the fact that the case may pave the way for European courts to impose orders on online properties beyond their own borders as far reaching.


Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

  • ECJ, Google Spain v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), C-131/12 (2014)
  • EU, Directive 95/46/EC (1995)

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Decision (including concurring or dissenting opinions) establishes influential or persuasive precedent outside its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

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