I am from Germany. When the Federal Office for Security in Information Technology issued a public warning to not use Internet Explorer earlier this week, I was proud of my country.
That did not last long.
Yesterday, Google Germany confirmed that the German newspaper publishers association (BDZV), Microsoft owned Ciao and online maps service Euro-Cities AG called the German cartel authorities to investigate Google’s business practices, for various different reasons.
At the heart of their complaint they sing along the well-known Rupert Murdoch idea: “We have no clue how to innovate our own business model, so we’d love to get a share of Google’s ads revenues!”
The rationale behind it is the assertion, by grabbing parts of their “valuable content”, created at “extremely high production costs” and inserting it into search results, Google would violate the publishers’ intellectual property rights.
Someone has yet to explain to me, how Google could potentially do this with only some two to three lines of text displayed underneath each link in their result listings.
Euro-Cities AG, a company offering an online maps service and one that I’ve never ever heard of before, additionally feels unhappy with Google delivering its own Maps services for free.
With ad revenues rapidly decreasing in traditional print over here, simply trying to reach out for Google’s pockets seems outrageous to me.
Would intellectual property rights be the real driver, simple technical means to prevent Google’s crawlers from indexing a site exist since more than a decade. But then again, publishers obviously do like that part of Google’s business. Being found by millions of daily Google users is okay, while Google making money by providing the best search service in the world is not?
A clear case of double standards.
To make matters worse our ministry of justice, a lady named Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, on Thursday stated, she is not too happy about the “megalomania” and is ready to act. “If this does not occur, then perhaps we will be required to step in as lawmakers,” she said.
Google Germany spokesman Kay Oberbeck remains relaxed:
“We would be happy to explain our products and business practices to the German authorities and are confident, that they fully comply with German and European law.”
Hopefully, our anti-trust officials will act commonsensical and deny to take action. Maybe we can also find somebody, who takes a few hours to explain Mrs. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the basics of how the Internet works.
As an immediate action to boost their own credibility, I’d like to recommend to the German newspaper publishers association, to remove the embedded Google Map from their driving directions page and maybe pay for one from Euro-Cities AG.