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Italy closes Google antitrust inquiry

Authorities end the investigation in exchange for Google's pledge to give publishers more control

By Philip Willan, IDG News Service
January 18, 2011 10:50 AM ET

IDG News Service - Italy's Antitrust Authority Monday closed a probe into Google for alleged abuse of its dominant market position in return for a pledge from Google to give publishers more control over their online content and greater transparency over the division of advertising revenue.

The decision follows a 16-month investigation into a complaint by Italian newspaper publishers that Google offered them no say on what content was made available on Google's Italian news site and inadequate information on how ad revenues were being divided.

Under the new agreement content producers will be allowed to monitor the number of clicks on links to their websites, so as to keep track of Google's earnings and their own entitlement.

Carlo Malinconico, chairman of the Italian Newspaper Publishers' Federation (FIEG), welcomed the agreement as introducing greater transparency and collaboration into the way Google ran its News and AdSense services.

Similar investigations opened in France, Germany and by the European Commission were likely to follow the same path, Malinconico said in a statement.

Google's lawyer Mario Siragusa was also pleased with the decision, saying it "rewarded the cooperative approach shown by the company."

In its ruling, the Antitrust Authority urged the Italian parliament to pass a new law on intellectual property that would encourage a "virtuous collaboration" between online content producers and users.

"Naturally there is no domestic solution to what is a gigantic global problem, but the commitments made by Google in Italy go in the right direction and confront parliament with the need for a comprehensive update of copyright rules," Paolo Gentiloni, IT spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party said.

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