Google’s seemingly endless war with publishers is set to continue as they now face “antitrust complaints” in Germany from newspaper and magazine publishers who want the company to pay them for using article snippets in its web news service and search results.
A statement from Google revealed that the very Bond-sounding German Federal Cartel Office had also informed it of separate but related complaints from a Microsoft subsidiary, Ciao, and a Berlin-based online mapping company, Euro-Cities.
“This is a fact-finding exercise, and we have been asked to provide the authority with our views,” Kay Oberbeck, a Google spokesman, said. “We are happy to explain our products and business practices, and we of course comply with German and European law.”
The New York Times noted that Google says it helps publishers make money on the web by directing traffic their way and by selling advertising through partnership programs. But Hans-Joachim Fuhrmann, a spokesman for the German Newspaper Publishers Association, said the websites of all German newspapers and magazines together barely eke out €100 million in ad revenue, while Google generates €1.2 billion from search advertising in Germany.
“The publishers also complained about what they see as a lack of transparency in the way Google presents search results and news snippets in its Google News service, saying the company was manipulating the results to help maintain its strong position,” said the report. The complaints are the latest in a series of potential regulatory headaches for Google in Europe.
In Italy, antitrust authorities raided Google’s offices in Milan last summer, while in Belgium, a publishers’ group called Copiepresse went to court to block Google News from linking to some newspaper websites, saying the newspapers were getting little or no benefit from the links.
Fuhrmann said German publishers did not want to pull their websites out of Google News or the search engine, adding that they did not see the company as an enemy.
“We need Google for the traffic,” he said. “But Google is a giant, a monopolist, and you cannot afford not to play along.”