Google Maps FranceGoogle Maps, the mapping service used by millions of people across the globe, is at the center of some heated controversy because, of all things, it's offered for free. Forbes reported that the search giant recently learned it is being fined by a French court to the tune of 500,000 euros, with an additional fine of 15,000 euros. The ruling comes after a French mapping company, Bottin Cartographies, filed a lawsuit back in 2010, "based on the allegation that Google was using its size to wipe out competitors by offering products – specifically Google Maps – to the public free of charge," Forbes wrote.

Speaking with the AFP after the ruling, Bottin's Lawyer, Jean-David Scemmama, said, "the court recognized the unfair and abusive character of the methods used." The methods Scemmama is referring to is Google's free product offerings.

A Google France spokesperson said the company, understandably, plans to appeal. "We remain convinced that a free high-quality mapping tool is beneficial for both Internet users and websites."

While Google Maps is more widespread because of its inclusion on smartphones and tablets, the ruling is odd because Yahoo and Map Quest have offered identical services for years. Most recently, Microsoft introduced Bing Maps to the equation.

This isn't the first time Google has run into French resistance. The company was previously fined 100,000 euros in 2011 because it collected private data through its Street View technology. In addition, Google is being sued for 23 million euros by French company Navx for an AdWords dispute.

This ruling seems to touch on a bigger Bermuda Triangle regarding Internet media and physical media. All facets of physical media are feeling the heat as digital technologies disrupt the industry. Internet-based technologies drive down the cost of processes because they don't require the physical manufacturing of products, and they have a broader reach due to the nature of the Internet. In the case of maps, Google charges advertisers, therefore offering the product for free. It'll be interesting to see if other cartography businesses step forward with the same allegations in the future.

[via Forbes]