Google has too much monopoly power and should be investigated for violations of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.
GOOGLE is a wonderful thing. It is also a dangerous thing, as it keeps demonstrating in its quietly rapacious way.
The latest is from Italy. The Italian newspapers are complaining that Google News Italia is using their content without permission, and without payment. Under Google’s rules, they can withhold their work from Google News Italia only at the price of excluding their pages from all Google searches.
You let us use your work for free, or we don’t let our customers find your Web page.
That is Google’s take-it-or-leave-it deal — in Italy and here, too. Google’s paid minions make this arrangement sound like philanthropy, but its fairness is more apparent to Google than to anyone else. The statements that count most are financial, and what they tell is a story of market dominance.
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Google has two-thirds of the market in search — a share more than three times bigger than the No. 2 in the market, Yahoo. In the Bush administration, this seemed to bother regulators only on Wednesdays and Fridays. They blocked Google’s deal with Yahoo, which stopped Google from increasing its dominance. The Bush people did little to deprive Google of the dominance it already had.
The book publishers did get together and sue Google over the theft of their content by Google Book — and, last November, Google agreed to pay them for their property. Maybe the newspaper publishers need to do the same.
We’re hoping for some help, too, from President Obama’s Antitrust Division. Last year, his appointee as assistant attorney general for antitrust, Christine Varney, was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying that Google was America’s most obvious antitrust problem — Microsoft was “so last century” she said — and that her challenge was “how do you apply Section 2 in a highly innovative, highly networked, not terribly competitive environment.”
She was referring to the Sherman Act. Section 2 says:
Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony…
That has been the law of the United States since 1890. All it requires is that the Justice Department pick it up and use it.