Larger Threat Is Seen in Google Case - NYTimes.com
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
Google And The Law — Not every Web ruling will be this silly.