Google’s $76m deal with French publishers leaves many outlets enraged


Alphabet’s Google has agreed to pay $76 million over three years to a group of 121 French newspaper publishers to end a more than year-long copyright dispute, according to documents seen by Reuters.

Google’s deal with the Alliance de la presse d’information générale (APIG), a lobby group representing most of France’s major publishers, was previously announced, but financial terms were not disclosed.

This decision infuriated many other French media, which considered it unfair and opaque. Publishers in other countries will review the French deal, the world’s most publicized under Google’s new program to provide compensation for news snippets used in search results.

Agence France Presse (AFP) and other French news providers that do not belong to the group are not part of the agreement and are pursuing various actions against Google.

The agreement follows France’s implementation of the first copyright rule enacted under a recent European Union law that creates “neighboring rights”, requiring major tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking compensation for the use of news content.

In Australia, lawmakers have drafted legalization that would require Google and Facebook to pay publishers and broadcasters for content. Google threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia if the country took this approach, which the company called “unworkable”.

French documents seen by Reuters include a framework agreement in which Google will pay $22 million a year for three years to a group of 121 national and local French news publications after signing individual license agreements with each.

The second document is a settlement agreement under which Google agrees to pay $10 million to the same group in exchange for the publishers agreeing not to pursue copyright lawsuits for three years.

Publishers would commit to an upcoming new product called Google News Showcase that would allow publishers to manage content and provide limited access to paid stories.

Google declined to comment on the terms of the agreement.

In January, Reuters News Agency, a division of Thomson Reuters Corp, reached an agreement with Google to become the world’s leading provider of information on Google News Showcase.

Reuters French rival AFP has maintained its complaint to France’s antitrust watchdog against Google, an inside source said. Last month, AFP chief executive Fabrice Fries welcomed the deal between Google and APIG, but called on the tech company to extend those copyright deals to news agencies.

Make Google pay

Pressure is mounting on Google globally to pay for news content as advertising and industry revenue have plummeted with the rise of digital platforms.

In Spain and Germany, publishers have tried, but failed, to charge Google for displaying snippets or snippets. German publishers lost a legal battle in 2019 over €1 billion in copyrights since 2013.

The text of the EU’s ‘neighboring rights’ rule aimed to create a new, sustainable revenue stream for newspaper publishers.

In the United States, the news industry is supporting legislation that would allow it to bargain collectively with major platforms without violating antitrust law. In Congress, lawmakers recently released a report saying that dominant technology companies have hurt the news industry because they “can impose unilateral conditions on publishers, such as revenue-sharing agreements to take or to let”.

Andrew MacLeod, managing director of Postmedia in Canada, said publishers were monitoring discussions in other parts of the world. “We are looking for a result to grow and build our future rather than relying on a handout.”

Lack of transparency

French publishers had little choice but to accept the deal, three sources familiar with the matter said, citing pressure from shareholders.

The same sources said some publishers were upset with Google’s refusal to provide access to data showing how much money it makes from the news.

“These opaque agreements do not ensure the fair treatment of all news publishers, since the calculation formula is not made public,” the union of independent online news publishers Spiil said this week. “Google has taken advantage of our divisions to advance its interests.”

The charges range from $1.3 million for the benchmark French daily Le Monde to $13,741 for local publisher La Voix de la Haute Marne, according to documents. They did not specify how the amounts were calculated.

Major national dailies Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation and their groups negotiated about 3 million euros ($3.6 million) each a year on top of the royalty in the deal, including agreeing in November to sell subscriptions through Google, a source familiar with the matter said.

Le Monde group boss Louis Dreyfus and Liberation boss Denis Olivennes declined to comment. Representatives of Le Figaro were not immediately available for comment.

APIG boss Pierre Louette did not respond to messages seeking comment.


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