Italian courts yesterday found 3 Google executives criminally responsible for breaking anti-privacy laws and they were sentenced, in their absence, to 6 months in prison. The offending piece of material was a video of teenage boys harassing an autistic boy.
Google have always argued that they are in no way responsible for any content published across their network.......which is pretty thin given that they are actively working with channel partners and have a variety of take down tools they can deploy if they wish. They are a digital content channel.
Italian judges, perhaps with the beady eye of Mr. Berlusconi on them, have ruled that Google and YouTube are to be treated as any other content provider / network and are thus reponsible for content published on their network via YouTube.
The example given by Google is that postmen should not be held liable for what they deliver. However, this does not seem quite right as Google (via adwords) have a direct financial interest in what is delivered across their network, which a postman does not, and a postman would not deliver a smoking, ticking parcel through a letterbox as he owes a duty of care.
European legislation appears to offer ISP's safe harbour - but this is not definitive and with the Digital Economy Bill waiting in the wings it seems that tide may be turning against the copyright infringers.