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Google and Antitrust: Five Approaches to an Evolving Issue

Michael A. Carrier, Harvard Journal of Law & Technology Occasional Paper Series, July 2013.

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Each generation, a new-economy case comes along that tests antitrust law. It features a new technology that threatens monopoly power and harm to rivals or competition. And it prompts the question of whether antitrust is up to the task. In the 1970s, it was IBM. In the 1990s, it was Microsoft. In 2013, it is Google.

This piece provides an overview of five contributions to a symposium on Google’s relationship to antitrust. Pamela Samuelson discusses pricing and entry-barrier antitrust concerns presented by the Google Book Search settlement. Mark Patterson focuses on Google’s market power, emphasizing users’ inability to evaluate search results.

Frank Pasquale laments the FTC’s inaction on the case related to search and calls for access to Google’s algorithms. In contrast, Marina Lao highlights the subjectiveness of “search neutrality” and explains why it should not form the basis for antitrust liability. And Geoff Manne and William Rinehart criticize antitrust condemnation of Google that is based on expansive notions of foreclosure, narrowly construed markets, and insufficient appreciation of innovative product design.

Google presents an array of crucial, fast-moving antitrust issues that include barriers to entry, market power (in two-sided markets and with credence goods), neutral search, and innovation. Although the FTC decided not to challenge the search behavior in 2013, these issues will confront antitrust enforcers for years to come.

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