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Italian regulator asks for copyright reform after Google settlement

Competition body cannot stop exploitation of news content

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Italy's competition regulator has asked the Italian parliament to reform copyright law after accepting Google's settlement of a dispute with newspapers. It does not have the power to solve the problem of the exploitation of newspaper content, it said.

The Italian Federation of Newspaper Editors had complained in 2009 that if newspapers refused to have their content appear in Google News it would also disappear from Google's search engine, which could affect the amount of web traffic they received.

The Italian antitrust authority (Autorita Garante Della Concorrenza E Del Mercato) said in a statement that Google had proposed measures to settle the dispute, which it accepted.

The statement said that Google had offered to allow newspapers to withdraw content from Google News without content from that organisation disappearing from Google search results.

"Publishers can choose whether to allow special access to their sites from Google News, decide to selectively exclude specific articles or images, or to bring up the titles of articles, but not extracts from the text of the same," said a Google translation of the statement from the competition authority.

According to the competition authority, Google also said that it would give publishers more information about the operation and financial basis of its AdSense programme, which places adverts on member publications' websites.

"The commitments adopted allow publishers to know the distribution of revenue from the sale of advertising: it is essentially allowing publishing companies to control the economic conditions," said the statement.

The competition authority also said, though, that it had sent a report to Italy's government and its parliament, suggesting that copyright legislation be revised to take account of technical developments and the economic impact of the web on creators' rights.

A Google statement on the resolution of the dispute said: "We have worked cooperatively with the Italian Competition Authority and our publishing partners to address their questions and concerns. While we comply with Italian and EU competition laws, we also understand that there is always room for improvement in our business".

The authority said that a national law that defines intellectual property rights in the context of the internet was needed because under current laws it "cannot untie the knot of the adequate remuneration of online editorial content industries, the economic exploitation of their works by others".

This article was originally published at Kable.

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