A group of German news publishers that filed a lawsuit against Google over allegedly unfair practices employed by the company’s online news service was referred to the European Court of Justice on Tuesday. A Berlin-based court decided to refer the case to a higher judicial body just over a year after the case was initially rejected, only to be appealed last June. The plaintiffs are led by Axel Springer, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, as well as 40 smaller companies from the German media industry, all of which accused the Mountain View-based tech giant of favoring certain online publications over others and not paying enough royalties for content used by its free Google News service.
The decision to move the dispute to the European Court of Justice comes months after the original appeal, though slow developments aren’t an unusual occurrence for complex cases related to digital rights like this particular one seems to be. Publishers previously alleged that the Alphabet-owner Internet company hasn’t adequately compensated publications featured by Google News, adding that their very presence on the service endangers print media in the long term. While the first German court that ruled on the case didn’t agree with that assessment, the plaintiffs had better luck with the appeals court that apparently decided to move the dispute to the highest judicial body in the European Union, provided that the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice agrees to hear the case.
The latest turn of events marks yet another potential legal issue for Google in the European Union. The company was recently hit with a number of antitrust complaints filed by competition watchdogs on the Old Continent, in addition to being involved in a tax dispute in Italy. More recently, Google was the main subject of a letter filed with the European Commission by a number of startups including Spotify that alleged the company practices abusive “gatekeeping” with its Google Play Store and promotes its own Android apps at the expense of alternatives, thus restricting consumer choice. While it remains to be seen how the Alphabet-owned Internet giant will resolve its existing legal disputes in Europe, an update on the situation will likely follow shortly.