14 April 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

Google must pay for news snippets, says French regulator

The French competition regulator has ordered Google to negotiate royalties with news publishers for use of their content, in line with the  EU Copyright Directive.

In a statement issued April 9, France’s  Autorité de la concurrence said that Google must agree a royalty covering the period backdated to the new copyright law coming into force last October.

After France became the first EU member state to ratify the Copyright Directive in its national law last summer, Google became embroiled in a dispute with French publishers over the use of their content in search results listings.

The  EU directive requires platforms such as Google to pay for using ‘snippets’ of news publishers’ content.

Google initially said that it would only display such snippets where publishers agreed to license them for free. Otherwise, Google would display only a headline and a link, which publishers said would harm traffic to their sites.

The dispute prompted publishers including Agence France-Presse to bring a complaint to the French competition regulator.

“This is an act of force from Google,”  said Pierre Louette, CEO of Les Echos-Le Parisien at the time.

"Google is offering us a choice between amputating our (internet) traffic, which will prevent readers from finding us or accessing our sites via its search engine, and amputating our rights," he said.

The regulator has now ruled that Google’s policy amounts to an abuse of the company’s dominant position in the market and would cause “serious and immediate” economic harm to the news sector.

Google had argued that it was up to publishers how their content was listing. At a  keynote speech made last October in Miami, Google’s vice president of news Richard Gingras said that “only the presentation of the sites’ results will vary, based on the extent of the preview content that publishers authorise us to use on our surfaces”.

In response to last week’s decision, Gingras said that Google had been “engaging with publishers to increase our support and investment in news” since the copyright directive had come into effect.

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27 March 2019   The EU Copyright Directive is set to have a major impact on Europe’s copyright landscape, but the immediate implications are uncertain, according to lawyers.
22 February 2019   A majority of European Union countries have agreed to back the latest text of the proposed EU copyright directive, which would impose a so-called “snippet tax” and make online platforms liable for infringing content on their sites.
25 January 2021   Members of an association of French publishers will receive remuneration from Google when their content is re-used, according to an agreement announced on Google France’s blog on Thursday, January 21.