Google by Travis Wise (CC BY 2.0)

Google by Travis Wise (CC BY 2.0)


The Equustek Effect: How One Case Has Sparked Canada’s Aggressive Approach Over Internet Jurisdiction

Equustek Solutions v. Google Inc., a case that originated in British Columbia, Canada, in 2014, captured international attention as one of the first internet jurisdiction cases to be considered by a nation’s highest court. My CIGI Policy Brief notes that since then, the case has emerged as a cautionary tale about increasingly aggressive legal approaches with respect to the Internet, with significant implications for online governance.

Equustek’s legal battle against Google ultimately wound its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where, in the summer of 2017, Canada’s highest court decided an internet jurisdiction case that has attracted global attention. Equustek Solutions v. Google Inc. was characterized as a classic David versus Goliath legal battle, pitting a small Canadian company concerned with misuse of its intellectual property (IP) against the world’s leading internet search engine. The case raised an important question: can a single national court dictate the content of search results for internet users worldwide? If so, could this effectively create new internet takedown order — an “Equustek order” — which could be used to remove global content.

While critics of global takedown orders warned that upholding the validity of the order would invite global uncertainty through inevitable legal conflicts and further empower large internet intermediaries who could selectively choose which laws and orders to follow, the aftermath of the decision has placed the spotlight on an additional consequence. In part due to the Equustek doctrine, Canadian courts now more aggressively assert jurisdiction over online activities. Indeed, Canada could emerge as ground zero for internet litigation, with its courts and tribunals at ease with a principle that extends domestic law to an international arena. The full policy brief is available here.