Amid Mounting Regulatory Threats, Google Picks Up Two Legal Wins in Europe


EUThe threat of increased regulation continues to loom over Google, with the recent antitrust investigations launched by 50 US states and territories adding to existing federal investigations in America, alongside similar moves by European governments and regulators. But the search giant picked up two wins in Europe today as Europe’s top court ruled against two separate initiatives from Germany and Hungary which targeted Google.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) put the brakes on efforts by German publishers to demand a fee from Google for using snippets of their work on products like Google News. A consortium of over 200 publishers had taken Google to court over a German ancillary copyright law which came into force in 2013, demanding as much as €1 billion in compensation.

But the German Court sought advice from the ECJ, and the ECJ today ruled that the law couldn’t be enforced as the European Commission hadn’t been informed of the regulation. “A German provision prohibiting internet search engines from using newspaper or magazine snippets without the publisher’s authorization must be disregarded in the absence of its prior notification to the Commission,” ECJ judges said.

Meanwhile, in a separate case at the ECJ, advocate general Juliane Kokott backed Google in a case against against a Hungarian tax on advertising revenue. Google has complained that Hungary’s tax is illegal, unfairly targeting companies not based in Hungary, and has found an unlikely ally in the EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has built a reputation for challenging the US tech giants.

“The specific manner in which the Hungarian law on the taxation of advertisements imposes coercive measures on undertakings established outside Hungary constitutes an indirect restriction of the freedom to provide services which is not justified on account of its disproportionality,” Kokott said. And while this decision is not binding, the ECJ follows this advice in the majority of cases, according to Bloomberg.

Both cases demonstrates how the fact that a number of investigations and legal cases are being launched against the ad industry’s dominant players, these effort won’t necessarily yield substantial results. As VAN has previously reported, many legal experts are sceptical about how much of an impact ongoing antitrust investigations at the federal level in the US will have.


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