By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Rasenberger: ‘Google’s Control of Digital Advertising’In Europe this week, many are remarking that the newly launched antitrust lawsuit of Google by the United States’ Justice Department looks not unlike measures taken in European markets.
“In Europe, Amazon, Google, Apple, and others,” write David McCabe and Nico Grant at The New York Times, “have faced antitrust investigations and charges, while regulators have passed new laws to limit social media’s harms and some practices such as data collection.”
Publishing Perspectives has been provided with a copy of a statement issued by the Authors Guild in New York City. As our international readership knows, the Guild is the United States’ largest advocacy organization for professional writers in book publishing, with some 11,000 members and a highly active program of business education for authors as well as an extensive portfolio of efforts, many of them in the legal arena, for the protection and advancement of its writing membership
While we often see the Guild’s administration working in support of its author-members, in this case, we see the organization operating primarily on the part of its journalist-members.
The Guild writes that it supports Monday’s filing (January 24) by the US Department of Justice and eight state attorneys general against Google “for monopolizing digital advertising markets in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.”
As the Guild clarifies, the lawsuit “alleges that Google has ‘used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies.'”
The action, in the Guild’s assessment, “aims to restore healthy competition in the markets, noting that Google’s dominance, among other things, has harmed the revenues for news publishers and content creators and impacted the exchange of ideas in the public sphere.”
A Google spokesman has told The New York Times that the suit “makes a flawed argument that would slow innovation and harm publishers.”
The Guild’s statement says that the Justice Department’s (DoJ) filing “breaks down how Google built and shored up its digital advertising empire over 15 years. By acquiring competitors, tying in services, and using other exclusionary tactics, Google seized more than 90 percent of the market share (measured as revenue or ad impressions), effectively destroying competition in the ad industry, extracting profits from advertisers, and leaving them without meaningful choices.
In the organization’s most explicit language about the lawsuit’s relevance to news publication, Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger writes:
“The DoJ and states attorneys generals’ lawsuit against Google has significance beyond the digital advertising markets.
“The complaint draws a clear line between Google’s control of digital advertising and the resulting harms to content publishers and creators.
“It has decimated journalism by siphoning up advertising revenue from newspapers and magazines, the result of which has been lower rates for freelance writing and 60-percent newsroom staff reductions.
“It has been devastating for journalists and book authors who rely on journalism income and has impacted the quality of our news.”
‘The Unfettered Growth of Tech Power’
For years, the Authors Guild writes in its media messaging, the organization has “sounded the alarm about the unfettered growth of tech power and its effects on democratic culture, expression, and above all the economic survival of the talented individuals engaged in creating the works that inform, entertain, and inspire us all.
“Eighteen years ago, in 2005, we initiated a class-action lawsuit against Google for its mass scanning of books without permission from or compensation to authors and publishers. Copyright claims aside, our lawsuit was concerned with the unfairness of allowing a then-burgeoning tech platform to reap profits from the hard, intellectual work of authors, a principle that we have hewed steadfastly.”
In concluding its messaging on this issue, the organization writes, “The Authors Guild has consistently called for the strengthening of copyright law and robust antitrust enforcement to counter the enormous influence that a few massive, profit-driven companies have on what we read, watch, listen to, and create, and more broadly on public discourse.
“This lawsuit and other developments on the antitrust front give us reason to be hopeful that meaningful reforms are underway.”