German “Ancillary Copyright” Law To Go Into Effect, Imposes Limits On Search Results

Google legal According to a report from IDG News, a "toned down" version of an earlier, more restrictive "ancillary copyright" law has been published in Germany and will go into effect in August. The ”ancillary copyright” rule was proposed in August of 2012. In its initial form it would have required Google and others that indexed or aggregated news to pay for links or excerpts from those news items -- essentially a "link tax." The law was pushed by German magazine and newspaper publishers that see the Internet and Google, in particular, as the cause of many of their subscription, readership and [...]


Wired Revisits Story Of Federal Sting & $500M Penalty Over Google’s Pharmacy Ads

Wired is telling the story of David Whitaker, a federal prisoner that helped the U.S. government catch Google breaking the law by allowing and helping foreign pharmacies sell drugs via Google AdWords. It's a story you may have heard before; the Wall Street Journal did a similar exposé on Whitaker and the federal sting operation in early 2012. Wired tells how Whitaker used a pseudonym and convinced Google AdWords reps to help him tweak his pharmacy websites so that they'd be approved for AdWords. To prove that Google's behavior was widespread, Whitaker went through a different rep—one [...]


Google Wins Vertical Search Antitrust Case In Germany

google-legal-cash-featured In a German case that could have broader antitrust implications in Europe, Google defeated a petition for an injunction brought by a German online weather trade group, Verband Deutscher Wetterdienstleister. The case is interesting because it involves a private antitrust action against Google and directly addresses the "search bias" argument made by Google critics. The case and petition for injunction against Google were brought on behalf of third party publishers by the weather association. I obtained an English translation of the German court's opinion. The translation is a bit awkward [...]


Governments Across The Globe Are Making More Requests To Remove Content From Google Services

google-transparency-report According to a new Transparency Report released today, Google received 4,096 government requests to remove 42,249 pieces of content during 2012. The purpose of Google's Transparency Reports is to record the number of worldwide government requests to censor content on Google services, and offer insight into the amount of censorship happening across the globe. The latest report demonstrates an uptick in the number of requests to remove political content, as well as the number of areas where the requests originate. According to Google's announcement, "In this particular time period, we [...]


Google’s New European “Antitrust” Search Results: Here’s What They’ll Look Like

EU Flag I've found documents associated with the Google-EU settlement proposal that offer mock-ups of how the new, regulated SERPs will look. It's very interesting and greatly clarifies the settlement terms and how they will be implemented practically. These mockups look quite different (and less "disruptive") than what I imagined. There are three basic scenarios: where Google sees direct monetization from the SERP, indirect monetization in the vertical or no monetization (e.g., News in Europe). In each case the presentation and the rules will be slightly different. The screens below are all mock- [...]


EU Goes Public With Google Antitrust Proposals, “Market Test” FAQs

google-eu-featured The EU released documents this morning that detail Google's antitrust settlement proposals and explain the Competition Commission's position on various aspects of the investigation. First here's what the EU says Google has proposed: Google offers for a period of 5 years to: (i) - label promoted links to its own specialised search services so that users can distinguish them from natural web search results, - clearly separate these promoted links from other web search results by clear graphical features (such as a frame), and - display links to three rival specialised search services c [...]


Is Google’s Antitrust Settlement Offer To Europe Dead On Arrival?

google-eu-featured The European Union has "accepted" Google's formal antitrust settlement proposal -- subject to "market testing." As a practical matter, that means EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia is circulating it among Google's critics and competitors for reaction. However, there has already been plenty of (negative) reaction based on the information that came out last week in news reports. That leads to the question: is Google's settlement proposal dead on arrival? And if so, what will Almunia and the Europeans do? Is litigation inevitable? The issue that Google's competitors and critics ca [...]


German Privacy Regulator Fines Google Over Street View Data Collection, Calls For Tougher Financial Penalties

street-view-car-featured A fine of 145,000 EUR (roughly $189,000) is trivial for Google. But that's close to the maximum fine allowed by German law ($150,000 EUR). The fine is being imposed on Google for violations of German privacy and data protection laws stemming from the so-called "WiSpy" episode in 2008 - 2009 in which Google collected private emails and other personal data via its Street View cars and their efforts to map Wi-Fi locations around the world. Google was fined 100,000 EUR by French authorities for the same violations in 2011. These amounts are insignificant to Google, which just posted quarterl [...]


Google’s EU Antitrust Settlement Includes Labeling, Mandatory Competitive Links And Third Party Enforcement

google-eu-featured The proposed terms of the Google antitrust settlement in Europe have started to come to light, first through a report in the Financial Times, and this weekend, in articles from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. As anticipated, the primary "remedy" Google is offering involves labeling its own results to distinguish them from third-party publishers. Yet, there are some new twists and nuances that have not been discussed or disclosed before. They involve third-party enforcement and presentation of competitive links as alternatives to Google's own content. Apparently, the settle [...]


Google (Finally) Gives EU A Formal Settlement Proposal As UK Mapping Rival Files Anti-Competitive Suit

google-maps-iphone-icon Google has formally submitted its antitrust settlement proposal to the EU. Wait, didn't that happen weeks ago? Apparently, it did not. While the parties have been talking for months (seems like years), Bloomberg reported today that Google had "formalized" its settlement proposal to avoid potential fines and other penalties. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia is now going to "market test" Google's proposal. What that means as a practical matter is that he will circulate the proposal among Google's critics and rivals for feedback. No doubt, they will be dissatisfied because Googl [...]


EU Leans Toward “Labeling” To Resolve Antitrust Claims Against Google

google-eu-featured Those hoping for aggressive regulation or changes in the way Google conducts its search business in Europe will likely be disappointed. A new interview with EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia hints at settlement proposals and remedies now being considered in the Google antitrust case. And, they will probably look a lot like what came out of the FTC earlier this year. The interview, published in a New York Times article triggered by the filing of a new antitrust complaint over Android, offers some insights into the state of settlement negotiations between Europe and Google. The [...]


Google’s Mapping Contest In India Creates Uproar

india-flag-map Google has run up against some of India's restrictive laws in the past, most notably in the context of vague and expansive censorship rules for content and search results. A new episode involves a crowdsourced mapping contest run by the company to obtain data for Google Maps. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Google ran a "Mapathon" contest in February and March offering prizes in exchange for information about local places, facilities and businesses: The Internet company invited amateur mappers as well as mapping enthusiasts to add local information through its Google Map Make [...]


Google Says No To FBI’s National Security Letter, At Least This Time

fbi Bloomberg News reports Google has filed a petition against a government request for information after receiving a "National Security Letter." The details of the requested information are currently not disclosed, as you would imagine. Bloomberg says it is rare for a company to fight back after receiving such a request from a government agency. Reportedly the push back from Google comes three weeks after San Francisco federal judge ruled that National Security Letters, which are issued without a warrant, are unconstitutional. Again, there are no details on the specific government demand bu [...]


Open Letter To EU Competition Commissioner Exerts Pressure For Tougher “Vertical Search” Settlement With Google

google-eu-featured Late last week, a group of Google critics, rivals and complainants sent an "open letter" to EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia asking him to focus on the "vertical search" or "search neutrality" dimensions of the Google antitrust case. The letter says, essentially, that of the "four areas of concern" raised by the EU over Google's business practices, this is the only issue that really matters. The letter asserts that the EU must address "Google’s search manipulation practices" in the form of "the systematic promotion of Google’s own services, and the systematic demotion [...]


Privacy Vs Censorship: Google, Spanish Government Face Off In European Courts

google-eu-featured In a test case that could have significant implications for Google throughout Europe the company faced off against the Spanish data protection authority in the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. One could frame the case as "privacy vs. censorship." From the Spanish government's point of view its data protection authority is simply vindicating the recently articulated right (of individuals) "to be forgotten" -- to have content or data about them removed from the search index upon request. From Google's perspective, if the court agrees with Spain, the outcome would be tanta [...]


Europeans Taking Sweet Time In Resolving Antitrust Case With Google

google-eu-featured Google's antitrust case in the US concluded in January, much to the dismay of companies that had been agitating for tough action by the FTC. It was seen as a near total victory for Google. Rivals quickly turned their attention to Europe in the hope that, unencumbered by some of the legal issues that inhibited US regulators, it would be willing to impose "meaningful" restraints on Google. There were some signals from EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia that Europe was going to take a firm stand on the vertical search or "search bias" issue. Google's alleged "search bias" towar [...]


Australia’s Highest Court Relieves Google Of Liability For “Deceptive” Search Ads

google-australia-200px Yesterday, Australia's highest judicial body, called The High Court of Australia, overturned a lower court decision that held Google responsible for paid-search ads deemed deceptive by  Australia's antitrust regulator, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). According to Bloomberg, roughly six years ago the ACCC sued Google claiming that certain travel-related ads appearing in search results were misleading or deceptive. The Commission sought to hold Google responsible for the content of those ads, relying on a pre-Internet decision finding a TV broadcaster responsible [...]


Google Settles With France: No ‘Link Tax,’ But €60 Million Media Fund

google-france-french-featured Google has avoided getting hit with a "link tax" in France by agreeing to create a €60 million "Digital Publishing Innovation Fund" to essentially help French media adapt to the online age. The settlement, announced today in France by President Francois Hollande and Google's Eric Schmidt -- and announced on Google's blog -- ends several months of debate over France's plan to charge Google for linking to French news content. When the French law was first proposed, Google threatened to just stop linking to French newspaper websites, saying that the country's publishers would miss out on [...]


Google Submits Formal European Antitrust Settlement Proposal

google-eu-featured Yesterday, right under the deadline, Google delivered its proposal to the European Commission (EC) in an effort to settle potential antitrust claims against the company and head off a formal enforcement action. The proposal was required to concretely address four "areas of concern" identified by the EC. Briefly, those involve "search bias" and "diversion of traffic," improper use of third party content and reviews by Google, third party publisher exclusivity agreements and portability of ad campaigns to other search platforms. Google essentially addressed three of the four areas in its sett [...]


From Praise To Outrage: Reactions To Google’s Antitrust Settlement

Google & FTC The post-mortem analysis of Google's antitrust settlement happened very quickly yesterday and this morning with some journalists and analysts concluding that factors other than the law were responsible behind the scenes. For example, Politico asserts it was largely "a calculated and expensive charm offensive" (lobbying) that drove the outcome yesterday. An even more absurd analysis argues that Google is essential to US foreign policy and thus the FTC let the company off the hook. While Google lobbying may have had an impact, in reality the the facts and the law weren't on the FTC's sid [...]


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