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On Tuesday, the Canadian Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal whose outcome will help shape access to information on the global Internet. Recognizing the high stakes, the court has heard the arguments of many interested observers, such as our organization, a free press group based in the U.S.

As is often the case, the facts of the initial dispute do not immediately reveal the potential for a precedent-setting legal showdown. In Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack, a group of British Columbia plaintiffs, who create devices allowing complex equipment made by one manufacturer to communicate with similar equipment made by another, sought an injunction under Canadian law, preventing the defendants, who, according to the court, operate a “network of websites through which they advertise and sell their product,” from selling competing products online.

But this garden-variety intellectual property battle took a different turn when the plaintiffs, after obtaining their injunction against the defendants, requested that Google — which was not a party to the lawsuit — remove search results linking to the defendants’ webpages. The plaintiffs asked for this relief not only on the Canadian extension of the search engine (google.ca), but also on all of Google’s websites around the world.

While Google removed the links on google.ca, it declined the demand for worldwide deletion. The plaintiffs, and now the British Columbia Court of Appeal, have taken the position that Google’s refusal to scrub these results from the entire search engine aids the defendants in violating the court order. But simply because a litigant’s website can be accessed through a search other than on a country-specific domain does not give that nation’s courts authority to compel search engines to remove links globally.