Does Italy think Google is a media company?

If Google is reclassified as a media company, it will increase its cost of doing business...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor on
I've often said that Google is a media company because it publishes pages of content with advertising around it. Just like a newspaper. What's not being a media company about that? Google is not a technology company. You can't buy any technology from Google, apart from a search appliance, a microscopic part of its business. Google is a technology-enabled media company. What seems to be happening in Italy is that the recent court ruling could be part of plans to reclassify Internet companies as media companies. The New York Times reported:

Larger Threat Is Seen in Google Case - NYTimes.com

The verdict, though subject to appeal, could have sweeping implications worldwide for Internet freedom: It suggests that Google is not simply a tool for its users, as it contends, but is effectively no different from any other media company, like newspapers or television, that provides content and could be regulated.

It seems that there is pressure from the highest reaches of government. The Prime Minsiter, Sylvio Berlusconi, is a media mogul. Again, the New York Times:

In Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns most private media and indirectly controls public media, there is a strong push to regulate the Internet more assertively than it is controlled elsewhere in Europe. Several measures are pending in Parliament here that seek to impose various controls on the Internet.
Critics of Mr. Berlusconi say the measures go beyond routine copyright questions and are a way to stave off competition from the Web to public television stations and his own private channels — and to keep a tighter grip on public debate.


The Google ruling comes amid other proposed legislation that would seek to bureaucratize the Internet in Italy, including the highly contested Italian version of a European directive that would compel online broadcasters to seek the same licensing agreements as broadcast television. Google lobbied for changes to the proposal.

It's expensive to run a traditional media organization because you need people, people to write, edit, publish, etc. People-based businesses are not as scalable as those based on servers and algorithms, and they are much more expensive to operate. Google, as a media company, has a much lower cost of business compared with a traditional media company, because it doesn't have to have editorial teams monitoring what is posted on YouTube -- as in the Italian court case. And Google is arguing that it doesn't need to monitor what people post. It's not responsible for what it hosts and distributes. But, a traditional media company is held responsible for what it publishes and agrees to shoulder the cost of that responsibility. That's not an even playing field. That's what the Italian court ruling is about, imho. UPDATED: Here is

Lee Gomes at Forbes:

Google And The Law — Not every Web ruling will be this silly.

Editorial standards