Europe's Shaking Down Google Just Like Google Shakes Down Publishers

It's summertime and the European Union is feeling its damn self. Days after another complaint with the EU about Google's anticompetitive behavior, German publishers decided they've had enough of Silicon Valley as well.

According to Ars Technica:

Several of Germany's largest newspaper and magazine publishers have instituted legal proceedings against Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. They're seeking an order that would make the search engines pay them an 11 percent portion of their "gross sales, including foreign sales" that come "directly and indirectly from making excerpts from online newspapers and magazines public."

The publishers are asking the courts to help them get a cut of their own content because legislative attempts haven't panned out. That's troublesome for Google since the European Court of Justice last month ruled that citizens have a Right To Be Forgotten by search engines. Ars Technica says:

The demand comes at a time when Google just doesn't seem to be popular with European judges and regulators.

But don't pity the GOOG. It still has one loyal thinkfluencer in the form of new media hawk Jeff Jarvis, who is calling the complaint: "The German War Against the Link." If news organizations want a fair playing field, they should be the ones paying Google to scrape them. No, really. That's what he argues:

Their demands are as absurd as they are cynical and dangerous. First, of course, Google is sending the publishers plenty of value as well. That is, Google is sending the publishers us: readers, customers, the public these news organizations allegedly want to serve. So what are we, chopped liver? I'll be posting an essay soon that argues that one reason media have a problem building new digital business models is that we still think value is intrinsic only in content; we have no marketplace and metrics for valuing the creation of an audience for it (now that those functions are unbundled). If the publishers really want a fair exchange of value, then they should also be paying Google for the links — the readers — it sends their way. But, of course, that would create a moral hazard and corrupt search; that Google does not charge for placement in search and Google News is precisely what set it apart from predecessors and built a valuable and trusted service.

Sure, demanding 11 percent sounds absurd, almost as goofy as that time Marissa Mayer testified in the Senate that Google has been great for the news biz. But its another sign that overseas regulators aren't as complacent as our homegrown variety.

The German publishers are asking for 11 percent from both direct and indirect sales. The latter seems to point to advertising revenue that the search giant amassed by becoming the default portal for news. But Jarvis assumes the only way to find articles is news dot google dot com:

Note, by the way, that Google does not place advertising on Google News. Are the publishers seeking 11% of 0? Note as well that there is data to say that longer samples of content could end up sending *more* traffic to creators (more on that, too, in a later post). These are facts that will need to be discussed in any suits.

Note also, by the way, that Google paid Jarvis' travel expenses to speak at a Google Big Tent event in Berlin earlier this month. "I do not accept other payment from Google," he clarifies. Please, the author of What Would Google Do? has some standards.

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via Shutterstock]