PublishedJanuary 3, 2013

FTC Announces Outcome Of Google Antitrust Investigation

Today, the FTC announced the closure of its 19-month antitrust investigation of Google.

The following statement can be attributed to Ed Black, President & CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association:

“The FTC’s decision not to proceed with a search case against Google was the right call.  Over the course of its far-reaching 19-month investigation, the FTC thoroughly reviewed the facts and the applicable law and made its decision accordingly.  This is exactly how law enforcement is supposed to work. This was a prudent decision by the FTC that shows that antitrust enforcement, in the hands of responsible regulators, is sufficiently adaptable to the realities of the Internet age.
“As this investigation illustrates, the market for answering consumers’ questions is dynamic and changing rapidly.  Traditional search engines are just one part of this expanding ecosystem.  Locking Google or any company into a 1998 version of web search would have harmed users and sent the wrong signal to companies looking to evolve their business models to effectively compete in the rapidly evolving Internet marketplace.
“Despite my support for this outcome, I am concerned about Google’s voluntary commitment on its display of ‘snippets’, which potentially sends the wrong message on fair use.  Displaying ‘snippets’ of information from other sources, whether they be newspapers or websites, is beneficial to consumers, widely accepted as appropriate, and protected under copyright law.  In fact a balanced copyright system, including fair use, is one of the key reasons why products like search engines, YouTube, Facebook, and thousands of other Internet companies are commercially viable in the first place.  The Internet as we know it today would not be possible without robust fair use protections for transformative copying.
“I understand why Google, which has been offering websites an opt-out provision for some time now, was willing to offer additional opt-outs for its specialized results pages, but we do not believe the company was under any legal obligation to do so.  Other companies should not interpret this agreement as diminishing their fair use rights in any way.”
In response to the binding components of the Google-FTC settlement pertaining to standard essential patents, the following is a statement by Ed Black:
“CCIA has long expressed concern with how the patent system operates.  A limited set of incentives intended to encourage invention has morphed into a system that too frequently impedes innovation, particularly in high-tech markets.  The settlement with Google on standard essential patents attempts to address one of the grey areas of patent policy and we will monitor it closely.  Given that SEP issues are minor compared to the major abuse that goes on elsewhere in the patent system, we hope that the FTC does not stop here. The agency’s historical expertise in this area gives it both the resources and the cachet to inject competition concerns into the greater debate around patent reform.”
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