European Publishers Unite To Criticise Google's Antitrust Remedies

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A group of European publishers have united together to criticise Google's proposed changes to the ways in which it operates as a search engine.

Speaking on their behalf, the European Publishers Council have released a statement designed to encourage the European Commission to 'reject outright' the Internet giant's remedies it had previously submitted to the European regulatory body over a number of antitrust issues.

One of Google's proposed remedies around the use of third-party content is for content publishers to opt in to its services, such as Google  News, essentially with content only made accessible to Google if the publishers choose to allow it to use the content - as will be the case in Germany from August 1.

However, EPC chairman, Francisco Pinto Balsemão, believes this is not nearly enough.

He said: "This is not an acceptable remedy, but it's one that has been thrown at us constantly despite our best efforts in the publishing sector to innovate and devise new technology that would allow all content providers to assert copyright terms and conditions in a standard, non-proprietary machine-readable language that Google's and other search engine bots could understand.

"Quite simply, systematic expropriation of our intellectual property is the ultimate predatory practice in that it unlawfully destroys the value of any creative endeavour, undermines or, worse, destroys any innovation or advantage a competitor may have."

In an antitrust investigation which began back in 2010, The European Commission identified Google as the dominant search engine in Europe, and resultantly the target of far more search engine marketing business than rivals such as Yahoo! and Bing. It also noted Google was very unlikely to be replaced by a web search alternative due to the industry being characterised by what the Commission call a 'significant barriers to entry'.

The Commission also accused Google of self promotion, with is own specialised search services allegedly diverting traffic away from Google's competitors, towards Google's own services. Similarly, the Commission accused Google of using third-party content, for example news and reviews.

In order to react to these claims, Google submitted a number of draft remedies in April. Aside from the maligned opt in process, the search engine firm also offered to make other concessions including the labelling of its own links more clearly.

However, following a market test of its proposals many publishers have concluded the steps are not nearly enough and the wave of criticism emerging from the likes of the EPC comes just days before a deadline on Thursday (June 27) set by European Commission chief, Joaquin Almunia, for Google to respond to the claims formally.

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