Google is currently in a dispute with French media, who are trying to force Google to pay them a portion of its advertising revenues for using their content in search results.
Google chief Eric Schmidt met with French President François Hollande on Monday to discuss the matter. Hollande had warned that Google must negotiate with the press or face new legislation, and Google has said that it would exclude French media from search results if France adopts new laws forcing them to pay for content.
Hollande was apparently not amused with this monopolistic high-handedness, and so today the French tax authorities filed a $1.3 billion dollar claim against Google to pressure them into a settlement, per France’s weekly Canard Enchaine.
Hollande is one of the few political figures worldwide who has had the courage to stand up to Google’s monopolistic bullying tactics.
I’ve never been a supporter of forcing search engines to pay for search result content because it opens up a whole hornets nest of fair-use quotation issues that are not in the interest of free and open discussion. It also means that nobody but the giants will be able to run a search engine, which could potentially wipe out other very useful search tools.
But Google’s monopoly has been unchecked (nay, abetted) by government interests for so long that there may be no other way to stop the destructive impact they are having on journalism worldwide. I know I’ve put this chart up before, but its importance cannot be overstated:
Google is cannibalizing its massive revenues from media outlets all over the world. Their ability to buy off US politicians has largely bought them a pass with US regulators, so they have been able to keep something like this from happening domestically. But with the EU data protection authorities essentially declaring that Google’s business model is illegal, and Hollande now breaking out the Louisville slugger, it could set a worldwide precedent. Media powerhouses like Rupert Murdoch and the AP are already clamoring for Google to pay them for their content.
It’s safe to say that Google will fight this with everything it has, and that Eric Schmidt is probably having a very bad day.