Spin doctors expertly touted tendentious studies, but Google emerged the apparent victor from its U.S. antitrust investigation. Media outlets — both brawny and bitty — technology bloggers, pundits and pirates weighed in with their opinion. Questions abounded: Did Google get off lightly? Would the European Commission consider the FTC’s ruling in their ongoing investigation? Was it a pyrrhic victory? Opinions overflowed: The FTC Sucks! Anyone Who Thinks the FTC Sucks, Sucks! The Google Antitrust Ruling Was A Victory For The Free Market! The Google Antitrust Ruling Killed The Free Market!
Not wanting to be a wallflower at the Legal Punditry Ball, we’ve created a Reader’s Digest version of reactions to the Google antitrust outcome.
Time Magazine: Did Google’s Antitrust Victory Have To Do With Their Motto?
Assuming the role of philosopher, Time Magazine’s David Futrelle asked the question: “Did Google’s Promise to ‘Do No Evil’ Persuade the FTC to Do Nothing About Its Search Bias?” After summarizing the search giant’s slap on the wrist, Futrelle suggested that Google defined their own parameters during the investigation. He then argued that the FTC’s 404-questioning-fail will ultimately murder innovation – cyborg style.
Time sought opinions from several industry luminaries, Gizmodo’s resident Google Critic Scott Cleland being one. He listed an index of previous offenses and concluded that Google is the second coming of Darth Sidious.
Wall Street Journal: How Will This Affect The International Markets?
Ever concerned with market-changing international imbroglios, the Wall Street Journal questioned whether or not the FTC’s decision would sway European Commissioners currently conducting their own investigation into Google’s search practices. EU spokespeople assured the WSJ that the Federal Trade Commission’s ruling will not have any “direct implications” on their inquiry.
A lawyer in Brussels who works with Microsoft said the European Commissioner has “identified practices that could be deemed illegal, and which the FTC walked away from.” The Conclusion: Europeans seem more concerned with “search manipulation” than Americans – so invest accordingly one-percenters.
Wired: Let’s Apply Some Actual Logic, Shall We?
Doug Miller took a different approach than many of his peers by asking the question: Did the true consumers of Google – whom he believes are advertisers – lose out in the FTC Google ruling? Using Nathan Newman’s logic, Miller averred that the “search market” is a mirage since netizens do not pay for the service. He punctuated his thesis by highlighting Google’s dependency on Internet marketers – a whopping 96% of their revenue pie is advertising.
Miller argues that Google’s practices hurt the true consumers of search, online marketers, because “with no other viable alternative for search engine advertising, the prices spiral upward at alarming rates.” He reasons that Google does engage in monopolistic activity because the company uses proceeds from their advertising revenues to subsidize free-cost products – like email, Google Docs and Google Calendar – which creates an insurmountable barrier to entry in the industry.
The Washington Times: The Federal Government Is Always Bad! (Except This Time.)
“Overcharging and under-delivering,” contends Daniel Oliver of the Washington Times, is the only market environment that “traditional antitrust law” seeks to conquer. In other words, the only functioning purpose of monopoly busting regulations is to stop industry smothering companies from raising prices on consumers.
In his “government-be-bad” analysis, Miller assured readers that “their favorite search engine will continue to be designed by private industry, not by government.” To further his assertion via one-dimensional rhetoric, Miller reminds readers that Bing and Yahoo! exist – so no harm, no foul.
Reuters: Why Aren’t More People Talking About FRAND?
Nanny Neutral, Reuters, focused on the Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory Licensing Terms (FRAND) aspect of the Google antitrust investigation. Though most people are talking about the search element, the investigation involved a handful of other issues. Chief among those was Google’s tendency to speak idealistically while carrying a patent-troll stick. As part of the deal, the technology behemoth agreed to ease up on frivolous aspects of their patent litigation. Specifically, they agreed to “[not] aggressively seek injunctions against products from rival companies.”
Reuters explained that the FTC-Google agreement is not like a court decision in that it does not officially establish legal precedence, but urged the FTC to use it as a “template” for other patent cases. A rightly suspicious expert quoted in their article, however, believes the vague wording of the Google agreement clears the field for bellicose patent litigation.
The complex nature of “e-mmunication” presents new legal challenges for both public companies and private people. If care is not taken when crafting decrees, law books could fill with special interest statutes that ultimately injure consumers. It’s too early to tell if the FTC called this one correctly, but if Google emerges as the Craken of commercial search, remember this decision as the root legal cause.