Europeans again raise the specter of breaking up Google

In 2014, the European Parliament held a mostly symbolic, non-binding vote to break up Google. This weekend, European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager told the UK’s The Telegraph that “the threat to split the internet giant up into smaller companies must be kept open.”
Vestager is being transparent when she says “the threat . . . must be kept open” — for leverage. As a practical matter, it’s extremely unlikely that the European Commission could unilaterally impose that sort of antitrust “remedy” on Google, especially if it were opposed in the US.
If there were broad agreement on both sides of the Atlantic and Google itself agreed to be broken up, that would be a very different story. Much more likely are additional potential fines.
In June of last year, the European Commission imposed a $2.7 billion fine on Google “abuse of its market power” in vertical (shopping) search. Google has appealed the fine.
Two other antitrust cases are pending against Google

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Google’s antitrust infringement continues ‘unabated’, Google Shopping competitors tell European Commission

Comparison shopping engines aren’t satisfied with Google’s response to the European Commission’s demand that the search giant give equal treatment to competitors.
“Google’s current remedy proposal has been in operation for more than four months, and the harm to competition, consumers and innovation caused by the infringement established by the Decision has continued unabated,” a group of Google competitors wrote in an open letter [pdf] to Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager at the European Commission this week.
After the European Commission levied a record nearly $3 billion fine against Google in an antitrust ruling for favoring its own Shopping ads and squeezing out rivals, Google established Google Shopping as a separate business unit to compete in the ad auction against other comparison shopping engines (CSEs).
That change was supposed to take effect last fall, but ads from competitors have been slow to appear and remain scarce. We’ve recently reported on competitor ads beginning to show occasionally in the UK. In

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Keyword infringement: Edible Arrangements files $209M trademark suit against Google

Google is being sued in federal district court in Connecticut by the company behind Edible Arrangements for trademark infringement and unfair competition. The central claim is that when users search for “Edible Arrangements” (or versions of that name), they’re seeing product ads for competitors, such as 1-800-Flowers.
The company is seeking more than $200 million in damages for lost profits and trademark infringement. The company claims that consumers are confused about which results are genuinely associated with Edible Arrangements and says it has received phone calls supporting that contention.
I have not seen the specific allegations in the complaint, and I was not able to replicate the allegedly infringing search results. It does not appear that the term “Edible Arrangements” appears in ad text for competing advertisers.
Google will review and restrict use of trademark terms in ad text where there is a dispute. However, it does not restrict use of trademarks as keywords: “We don’t investigate or restrict trademarks as

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Google, Getty Images enter a multi-year global licensing partnership

Late last week, Google parent Alphabet and Getty Images announced a sweeping partnership that effectively ends a long-standing copyright and antitrust dispute between Getty and Google, which was filed in early 2016.
The newly announced deal was characterized by Getty as “a multi-year global licensing partnership, enabling Google to use Getty Images’ content within its various products and services.” As part of that deal, Google will be using Getty images across many of its “products and services.”
Another change, according to The Verge, is that Google will make copyright attribution and disclaimers more prominent in image search results and will remove view links to stand-alone URLs for Getty photographs.
Getty’s complaint against Google alleged traffic and revenue losses to its customers’ sites because users could see (and potentially copy) images directly from Google Image Search results. Getty claimed that the ability to save and download images promoted copyright infringement and “piracy.” Getty is not the only party to have made

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India’s competition regulator fines Google $21.1 million for ‘search bias’ in travel results

India’s Competition Commission (CCI) today fined Google $1.36 billion rupees (roughly $21.1 million) for “abuse of its dominant position” in search. The specific finding made by CCI (in a 4 to 2 decision) surrounded Google’s treatment of flight search results.
CCI said that Google “allocated disproportionate real estate” to the box of sponsored flight results at the top of the page, which the Committee said disadvantaged “verticals trying to gain market access”:

CCI found prominent display of Commercial Flight Unit by Google on Search Engine Result Page (SERP) with link to Google’s specialised search options/ services (Flight) in contravention of the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Act. CCI noted in its order that Google through its search design has not only placed its commercial flight unit at a prominent position on SERP, it has also allocated disproportionate real estate thereof to such units to the disadvantage of verticals trying to gain market access. Besides, it was also found

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US court orders Google not to comply with Canadian court’s order delisting search results

A federal court in California has blocked implementation of a Canadian Supreme Court ruling that ordered Google to delist websites associated with a company called Datalink from Google’s global index. The Canadian decision (Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions) was an example of a court in one country asserting authority over global activity outside its jurisdiction.
Because Google exhausted its appeals in Canada, the company filed an action in the US District Court in Northern California, asserting that the Canadian decision violates US law. The US federal court agreed with Google and issued a preliminary injunction — effectively overruling the Canadian Supreme Court:
Congress recognized that free speech on the internet would be severely restricted if websites were to face tort liability for hosting user-generated content . . . It responded by enacting Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act], which grants broad immunity to online intermediaries . . .
The Canadian order would eliminate Section 230 immunity for service providers that link to third-party websites.

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Alphabet to create separate business unit in Europe to run Google Shopping

According to Bloomberg, Google is going to create a separate business unit to manage shopping content in search results to comply with the European Commission’s recent antitrust decision. This unit will reportedly be required to compete in the auction against shopping competitors.
The unit will apparently use its own budget and revenues to bid in the auction and will only exist in the EU. Shopping search will continue as is in other markets, including the US.
Reuters had earlier reported that Google was going to “display rival shopping comparison sites via an auction.” That approach appeared to be similar to the earlier “rival links” proposal that failed to settle the antitrust dispute before the formal complaint (statement of objections) was filed in 2015.
Google was fined roughly $2.7 billion (€2.4 billion) for abuse of market position in shopping search. The fine was the largest antitrust penalty in EU history. The previous record was $1.3 billion against Intel. As part of the

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Yelp says Google violated ‘do not crawl’ provision of 2013 FTC settlement agreement

Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com
Yelp has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asserting that Google is improperly using Yelp images in local search results in violation of its 2013 antitrust settlement with the regulatory agency. Yelp also circulated the letter to several members of Congress and state attorneys general, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The 2013 settlement concluded nearly two years of investigations and political maneuvering. As part of the agreement, Google said it would:
[M]ake available a web-based notice form that provides website owners with the option to opt out from display on Google’s Covered Webpages of content from their website that has been crawled by Google. When a website owner exercises this option, Google will cease displaying crawled content from the domain name designated by the website owner on Covered Webpages on the google.com domain in the United States. Website owners will be able to exercise the opt-out described above by completing a web-based

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Report: Google to appeal $2.7 billion EU fine

According to The Telegraph, Google is planning to file an appeal against the roughly $2.7 billion (€2.4 billion) antitrust fine imposed by the European Commission in June for abuse of market position in shopping search. The fine was the largest in EU history; the previous record fine was $1.3 billion against Intel.
Last week, Intel won a rare partial victory against EU antitrust regulators when the European Court of Justice instructed a lower court to re-examine its decision and take a closer look at the underlying facts and market impact of Intel’s behavior.
It’s not clear whether last week’s decision impacted Google’s thinking on whether or not to appeal (Google’s decision was likely made before last week). Though it will likely be in process for several years, an appeal makes sense because the company faces potential similar fines and demands for change around other types of “vertical search” results such as maps/local, travel and other categories.
Google is required to submit proposals

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Top European court to decide if Google needs to purge disputed links from global index

A top European court will now decide whether Google must remove “right to be forgotten” (RTBF) links from its global search index. The French data protection authority, Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), previously argued RTBF can be defeated when disputed content remains in Google’s global index.
In 2015, CNIL demanded global delisting to enforce RTBF. Accordingly, the regulator has effectively sought authority over Google’s search results in countries outside Europe — beyond its legal jurisdiction.
Google complied within Europe but declined to do so globally. CNIL then fined Google roughly 100,000€ for not following its directive to purge disputed content globally.
Google has correctly resisted CNIL on the grounds that citizens of other countries should not be subject to French or European law. Google has defended limiting RTBF removals to European users and has taken a number of steps to prevent people in Europe from accessing RTBF links:
We’ve been working hard to strike the right balance in implementing the European Court’s ruling, co-operating closely with data protection authorities. The ruling focused

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