Legal myopia is alive and well in France

I’m astonished to read the outcome of a court case in France.

A French commercial court has found Google guilty of abusing the dominant position of its Google Maps application and ordered it to pay a fine and damages to a French mapping company.

In a ruling Tuesday, the Paris court upheld an unfair competition complaint lodged by Bottin Cartographes against Google France and its parent company Google Inc. for providing free web mapping services to some businesses.

The court ordered Google to pay 500,000 euros ($660,000) in damages and interest to the plaintiff and a 15,000 euro fine.

The French company provides the same services for a fee and claimed the Google strategy was aimed at undercutting competitors by temporarily swallowing the full cost until it gains control of the market.

There’s more at the link.

The French economist Frédéric Bastiat famously produced, in 1845, his “Petition From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, sticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting“. In it, he portrayed them as complaining that the sun was ruining their business, and petitioning the French government to order building owners to exclude sunlight from their windows! It seems that the French mapmaker has adopted a similar position. They can’t handle a free product that competes with theirs, so they want compensation. I also note that they only went after Google – not Microsoft’s Bing Maps, or Mapquest, or OpenStreetMap, all of which provide similar (and similarly free) services. One presumes they figured Google had the deepest pockets to pay damages – hypocritical at best, no?

I’m afraid ‘legacy’ industries (like publishing) that can’t keep up with technology are going to wither and die, whether they like it or not – and no matter how insular, prejudiced and myopic the legal system to which they turn for protection!



  1. Any idiot with a fire can melt copper and tin to mold a bronze spear head. It takes years of learning and dedicated effort to develop the skills to read the stone and chip the flakes to produce a beautiful, well balanced, flint spearhead. These new people have no respect for tradition and real craftsmanship. Damn metallurgical whippersnappers. You kids get off my shard pile!

  2. It would be awesome if Google said "Snort my taint" to this extortion. And then if France tried to seize property for the fine, Google could turn off access to its site from France. I wonder who would scream first?

  3. To be (somewhat) fair to Google, the French do have a partially valid complaint here. Here's an article about how Google recently changed its pricing structure for access to its backend API:

    And on the current France-vs-Google issue:

    In short, Google had been offering its APIs (which is to say, the ability for developers from other countries to hook into Google's services and create their own interface for their own purposes) for free for some time now, which did push much of the competition out of business — where they could afford to eat the costs.

    Aaaand then they started charging for use of the APIs, starting at $10K/yr, up to a whopping $300K/yr, depending on the customer and usage. Kind of a bait and switch, in that sense, or "first hit's free".

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