France agrees to Google plan to pay publishers for their content

The French competition authority has approved Google’s efforts to establish a negotiating framework. On that basis, French media receive a certain compensation if Google publishes parts of their content on its platforms.

The Autorité de la Concurrence accepts Google’s efforts, ending the pending legal proceedings against the company. According to the regulator, the steps Google has taken mean that concerns about the negative impact on competition are likely to disappear. The authority has accepted them and made them mandatory. The framework applies for a period of five years.

The dissatisfaction of the French media and the French competition authority with Google’s willingness to pay a reasonable fee for showing snippets of content has been going on for several years. The boiling point came in July last year, when the Autorité de la concurrence imposed a €500 million fine and a fine of €300,000 for each day that Google failed to comply with the sanctions imposed.

That fine followed because, according to the French authority, Google had not complied with a previous order to negotiate in good faith with publishers and news agencies about the fees. The competition authority issued those orders after Google unilaterally decided that it would no longer show excerpts, unless publishers gave permission and did not have to pay a fee for it. According to the authority, Google abused its dominant position. Google had negotiated with news agencies and publishers, but would mainly have aimed for a worldwide deal and would have wanted to exclude certain companies.

The now agreed framework is intended for content sharing negotiations and for transparently assessing how much money publishers should receive for using their content. It has been agreed that if these negotiations do fail, an arbitration procedure will be initiated at Google’s expense. The American company has also decided to drop its appeal against the earlier fine and penalty.

Google reports on its own blog that it now has agreements with more than 150 companies and organizations about the right to take over parts of their content. In the rest of the EU, according to Google, there are more than 650 organizations. The company says it is satisfied with the current outcome in France.

This is about paying for what Google’extended news previews‘ calls. These are relatively short snippets or portions of content from press publishers and media companies that Google is allowed to use on its platforms, such as in search results or short snippets as part of a Google News feed.

The background to this issue is the European Copyright Directive. It created an exclusive right for publishers that comes on top of existing copyrights in order to protect the publications of their journalists. Only after a license are companies like Google allowed to take over this content or parts of it. That requires negotiations between the publishers and media companies, and Google. The idea is that this will improve the position of publishers by allowing them to negotiate a more reasonable fee if big tech companies like Google want to use parts of their content for their platforms.