Italian Competition Authority accepts Google’s commitments and closes investigation

On 17 January 2011 the Italian Competition Authority (“AGCM”) communicated that it accepted the commitments (available on the AGCM website only in Italian) offered by Google to close the investigation into Google News service under Article 102 of the TFEU  (see Newsletter 5/2009 p. 10, Newsletter 2/2010 p. 11, and Newsletter 3/2010 p. 10, for background information).

With its decision of 22 December 2010, the AGCM made the following commitments formally binding on Google:

  • First, publishers will be able to decide whether 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. This solution is now possible because Google has implemented a crawler (i.e. a computer program used by search engines to process and index web pages) for the Google News service which runs independently from the crawler of Google’s main search engine.
  • Second, under the new terms of Google’s AdSense program, revenue sharing of proceeds from advertising sales will be more transparent. In brief, publishers will be able to check the economic terms and conditions that determine the amount of compensation they are entitled to receive. In future, publishers will have to be notified of prospective modifications prior to their implementation.

The AGCM also submitted a report (available only in Italian) to Government and Parliament requesting a review of copyright laws to address the issue of how to compensate businesses that produce the content which is later (economically) exploited by other parties on the internet. The AGCM points to the objective discrepancy between the value that the content contributes to the internet system as a whole and the actual proceeds received by online publishers for their contributions. According to the AGCM, antitrust inquiries are not the appropriate means to address those issues; instead, 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 and the providers of innovative internet services.

The AGCM encourages the Italian institutions to promote discussion on this issue in the appropriate international venues. [Gabriele Accardo]