By Steve Eggleston
Stop me if you heard this one before – the European Union, flush with soverign political power but essentially bankrupt in the technology world, targets a dominant American technology company to force it to “de-couple” a major part of its business model from the rest of the company’s business model. This is actually the third time the EU has at least threatened this, and while the first two times, it successfully targeted Microsoft, this time, they’re targeting Google. The opening paragraph of Forbes contributor Tim Worstall’s piece:
Or at least that’s what is being suggested in the European Parliament, that search engines should be forced to be divorced from other business activities. It’s also true that they don’t directly mention Google but that’s obviously who it is aimed at. Fortunately, as a matter of public policy this isn’t going to go very far. Because the European Parliament doesn’t actually have the right to propose either actions or legislation. Only the European Commission can actually propose something and then the Parliament gets to say yea or nay to it.
Before you laugh this threat away like Worstall does, I am compelled to point out that the EU not only got Microsoft to unbundle Windows Media Player and, later, Internet Explorer from the various versions of Windows sold in Europe, but that the EU enriched itself by nearly $2 billion from Microsoft’s coffers.
The interesting bit of the EU’s latest attack on American technology companies comes later in Worstall’s column. It seems the German press got miffed that Google News was “stealing” their articles by, get this, excerpting the articles and linking to the full versions, with the net effect of driving traffic to the German press’ websites. Their attempt to use the German Bundestag to show Google what’s what failed spectacularly when Google simply stopped linking to them instead of paying the suddenly-legalized extortion. They then got the German members of the EU bureaucracy involved, and here we are.
I’m sure there’s a lesson for the “establishment” press here. On a related note, do read Worstall’s piece for the explanation of why decoupling Google’s search engine from the rest of its business is “insane”.