editor stands up against Amazon, Google to defend black press

The executive editor of has prevailed over motions to dismiss by Amazon and Google in a case that tests whether individuals have control of their own names.

"It's like Kunte Kinte refusing to be called Toby," notes John William Templeton, plaintiff in John William Templeton v. Amazon, Google, Jeffrey P. Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Sundar Pichai (CSM18-859150 in San Francisco Superior Court.)

Filed in October 2018, Templeton alleges violations of the California right of publicity law, the false advertising law, the anti-phishing law and unfair business practices. He had earlier filed a complaint with the San Francisco District Attorney.

As early as 2012, Amazon began purchasing search engine advertising on Google and other search engines asserting that it owned the distribution rights to all of Templeton's book published since 1984, but when consumers clicked on the link they were told the books were "out of print."  When the plaintiff discovered the misinformation in 2015, he called and eventually reached the general counsel and corporate secretary of Amazon.     Then, in retaliation, the listing was changed to send consumers to a 1980 free paper in which one of the authors had the middle name Templeton.   After the suit was filed, the listing suddenly changed, but still continues to divert consumers away from his 90 books.

Google then began creating pages in Google Books for each of Templeton's titles to divert away from his 16 web sites, the only place where his books can be purchased since 1996.

The enormous significance of the issue is demonstrated by the report of the Special Counsel on Russian election meddling in which indictments were filed against foreign intelligence services for posting false web sites to influence African-American voters.  During Reconstruction, similar disparagement was used to incite violence against African-Americans, a phenomenon which has re-emerged in recent years.  The ability of African-Americans to tell their own story is the founding motto of the black press since 1827 -- "We wish to plead our own cause."

The European Union has sanctioned Google for favoring its own site and advertisers in search results.  Ironically, the founders wrote in an academic paper in 1998 that advertiser supported search results would favor the advertiser.  However, now the company is the leader in online advertising.   A research study shows that Amazon has had a practice of buying search terms as an anti-competitive step to divert traffic from competitors, causing many brick and mortar companies to go out of business.