Google Not Liable for Unfavorable Vanity Search Results

You may not know who Beverly Stayart is, but after reading this article, you may get to know her better… and even do a Google search.

Stayart, a native of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, has noticed that her name has popped up in search results (such as Alta Vista, Yahoo!, and even AdultFriendFinder) alongside websites that sell erectile dysfunction drugs and sites hosting malware. She has since sued these companies, alleging they have violated her right to privacy by misappropriating her name, as well as selling ads and auto-suggesting search terms using her name.

Stayart, who describes herself on her Tumblr page as “CFO and Director of Business Development for Stayart Law Offices,” has lost on every lawsuit, including her latest case against Google. This comes after she accuses the search engine giant of misappropriation since searching for “Bev Stayart” on Google’s search bar brings up auto-suggestions like “Bev Stayart Levitra.” (Levitra is an erectile dysfunction drug.)

On Wednesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a decision made by a district court in 2011 that dismissed Stayart’s case against Google. In her appeal, Stayart argued that her rights were violated according to Wisconsin’s right to privacy laws.

She particularly pointed out the ยง995.50(2)(b) section of the law, wherein the “use, for advertising purposes or for purposes of trade, of the name, portait or picture of any living person, without having first obtained the written consent of the person or, if the person is a minor, of his or her parent or guardian” is considered an invasion of privacy.

The court, however, disagreed: “Stayart has not articulated a set of facts that can be plausibly lead to relief under Wisconsin’s misappropriation laws.”

The appeals court also cited her previous case against Yahoo! in 2011 for similar reasons. At that time, the court concluded that there had to be a “substantial rather than incidental connection between the use and the defendant’s commercial purpose.”

Source: Reuters, via Ars Technica

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