A420 - AS787 - PUBLISHING: ANTITRUST AUTHORITY ACCEPTS GOOGLE COMMITMENTS AND IMPLORES PARLIAMENT TO UPDATE COPYRIGHT LAWS
PUBLISHING: ANTITRUST AUTHORITY ACCEPTS GOOGLE COMMITMENTS AND IMPLORES PARLIAMENT TO UPDATE COPYRIGHT LAWS
Conclusion of investigation into possible abuse of dominant position: Google to let publishers remove and/or specify the contents of Google News Italia, to tell publishers how proceeds are apportioned during the calculation of payouts for advertising space and to stop preventing the advertisers on its platform from tracking click counts. Government and Parliament to update copyright safeguards in all sectors.
On-line publishers will gain more control over their own contents in the Google News service and more transparency and verifiability in the economic terms and conditions imposed by web site companies that use Google's advertising intermediation services. These are the final results of an investigatory proceeding by the Antitrust Authority, which accepted (and made binding) the commitments proposed by Google during the investigation into possible abuse of dominant position. The Antitrust Authority, which found the proposed measures sufficient to ameliorate the competition-related concerns linked to Google's behavior, also submitted a report to Government and Parliament requesting a review of copyright laws in light of web-based technological and economic innovations.
According to the Antitrust Authority, antitrust inquiries are insufficient to untangle the due compensation knot for businesses that produce the published online content used by other parties for economic gain. A national law would be needed to define a system of intellectual property rights that could promote virtuous forms of cooperation between the holders of exclusive rights to published content and the providers of innovative internet services that reproduce and adapt the contents protected by such rights.
According to the Antitrust Authority, the problem from a pro-competition point of view lies in the objective discrepancy between the value that the published content contributes to the internet system as a whole and the actual proceeds received by online publishers for their contributions. Given the supra-national dimension of the internet phenomenon, this is a cause that Italian institutions should be promoting in the appropriate international venues.
The following commitments were proposed by Google and made binding by Antitrust Authority resolution.
1) Google ensures the provision of separate Google News software that allows publishers to choose the journalistic contents to propose through Google News without jeopardizing the indexing on the Google Web Search engine. More specifically, publishers can decide whether or not to provide Google News with access to their own sites, to selectively exclude specific articles or images and to display article titles without any text excerpts.
2) The AdSense program, which is the advertising solicitation platform used by Google to help connect advertisers and publishers, shall be managed transparently. In practice, publishers publish the advertising announcements of AdWords advertisers on their own websites and profit from every click on the advertising links that are displayed. The mechanism that instigated the Antitrust Authority investigation, however, found Google Ireland calculating compensations entirely at its own discretion, at times, without acknowledging any obligation to explain how the shares were being calculated. They also reserved the right to change the price and payment structure at any time at their own exclusive discretion. The commitments being adopted will instead make the parceling of proceeds from advertising sales transparent to the publishers themselves. In essence, this makes it possible for publishing companies to check the economic terms and conditions that determine the amount of their due compensation. In the future, publishers will have to be notified of prospective modifications prior to their implementation. Lastly, the full prohibition on third party access to user click counts for specific advertisements has been lifted on the condition that the access technologies are compatible with technical procedures and conditions as announced by Google.
Rome, 17 January 2010