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Google set to begin appeal against Italian guilty verdicts

Google Video 3 to fight privacy-breach convictions

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Google is shortly expected to appeal against suspended sentences handed out to three of its executives accused of breaching Italian privacy laws.

Mountain View global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, who is one of the men convicted by a Milan court in February 2010, told the San Francisco Chronicle that appeal proceedings could happen as soon as next month.

The three Google execs - Fleischer, chief legal officer David Drummond and chief financial officer George Reyes - were given suspended sentences of six months apiece for breaching Italian privacy laws.

The case used a Google Video clip of a child with Down's syndrome being taunted and hit by four schoolboys as evidence against the men. The three execs were found not guilty of defamation but guilty of privacy offences.

The clip was put on Google Video in September 2006 and removed about a month later, following complaints from pressure group Vivi Down.

No charges were brought against a fourth defendant in the case, Arvind Desikan, a video executive at Google.

At the time of the sentencing, Italian prosecutors said Google should have sought permission from those involved before putting the video online.

It was impossible to pre-screen all Google Video content, Google unsuccessfully argued.

The company added that it had responded quickly to complaints about the video, which – as noted by prosecutors in the case – had risen to the top of the "most viewed clips" on the vid-sharing site before being removed by the search giant.

In a blog post written in September this year, Fleischer said he had made some changes to his defence team.

One member, Giuliano Pisapia, was recently elected as Mayor of Milan, which meant he had to withdraw from representing the Google exec. Fleischer now has Carlo Blengino and Giulia Bongiorno – who worked on Amanda Knox's high-profile case – representing him.

"Preliminary appeal briefs have been filed with the Milan appeals court, but the appeal has not yet been assigned to individual appeals court judges. Once that happens, the judges will decide on a hearing schedule," he said.

"So, realistically, I am not expecting the hearings to begin until later this fall. I have no insights into how many hearings will be held, nor when they might be held."

That rough timeline has obviously now slipped into next year. ®

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