David Welton: Italy vs Google
I'm starting to notice a pattern here:
- Google executives are on trial because some sorry excuses for human beings picked on a retarded person and posted the video to youtube: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8115572.stm - this one is simply preposterous. Going after the execs of a company who did nothing to aid, abet, condone or in any way facilitate the abuse in question is absurd, and if extended to other industries would mean that you could pretty much attack any company whose products happened to figure in a crime somehow. Kitchen knives, hunting rifles, golf clubs, even automobiles would seem fair game.
- Italy is going after "user generated content" sites like Youtube and wants to force them to register with the government if they wish to operate: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/02/italy-preparing-to-hold-youtube-others-liable-for-uploads.ars
- And last but not least, this hit piece in the normally respectable Corriere della Sera: http://www.corriere.it/economia/10_gennaio_28/mucchetti_4de4be8a-0be8-11df-bc70-00144f02aabe.shtml
- it's in Italian, but the gist of it is that Mr Mucchetti really has it in for Google because they operate out of Ireland in the EU, whereas he believes they should be registered in Italy as a publisher, and subject to Italy's myriad rules, regulations, and, of course, taxes regarding publishing. Despite, well, not really publishing much of anything themselves. He mentions "tax evasion" charges that had been considered, because the Italian division of Google is not where the adsense revenue in Europe goes. I suppose he figures that since the ads are bought by residents of Italy, the money should somehow stay in Italy? He also huffs and puffs about Italy's antitrust laws, which, in the same piece, he admits were created with the express purpose of not touching existing companies (the market share limit was set higher than the share of the largest existing company). Perhaps he would do well to reflect on political schemes and carve-ups like that and think about why companies like Google go to Ireland, rather than Italy. He also makes some quick mentions of network neutrality, and rambles on a bit about how it's a battle between the "Obamanian, Californian, search engines" versus the telecommunications industry, in "the rest of the world and above all in Europe". And of course he uses a liberal sprinking of keywords like "globalization", "multinational corporations", and "deregulated" to attempt to paint Google in terms of being a big, evil company throwing its weight around. One wonders if there aren't more pressing problems with the Italian media industry, such as the prime minister owning a large chunk of it?
One way of seeing things is that politicians and businessmen in Italy noticed Google was actually making quite a bit of money, and even if they don't quite understand this internet thing, they want some of the loot.
And while Google certainly is becoming big enough to be cause for worry and discussion, the moves against them in Italy do not seem anything like a rational response calculated to offset severe failures in the market.
In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens. Maybe, after China, we'll see Google quit Italy as well?