Google To Pay £55m To French Publishers Under Copyright Deal

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New copyright law spurs three-year Google deal with French national and local news publishers over online content reuse, but some call arrangement unfair

Google is reportedly to pay $76 million (£55m) to French news publishers under the terms of a deal struck last month to end a copyright dispute.

Reuters reported that under a framework agreement reached between Google and the L’Alliance de la presse d’information generale (APIG), a news publisher lobbying group, the tech giant agreed to pay $22m annually to a group of 121 national and local French news publications.

As disclosed in late January, the agreement requires each of the news publishers to sign an individual licensing deal with Google.

Google also reportedly agreed in a separate settlement  to pay the news publishers $10m in exchange for a commitment to end present and future litigation related to copyright claims during the term of the three-year deal.

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The annual payments under the deal range from $1.3m for national newspaper Le Monde down to $13,741 for local publisher La Voix de la Haute Marne, according to the documents.

National newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro and Libération reportedly negotiated an additional sum of about 3 million euros (£2.63m) each per year through provisions such as a November 2020 agreement to sell subscriptions through Google.

Under the deal APIG members agree to provide content through Google’s upcoming product Google News Showcase, a global service designed to pay publishers for their content online.

A lobbying group representing independent French online news publishers, Spiil, called the agreement “opaque” and noted that the means by which the payments to each news publisher was calculated was not made public.

Spiil said news publishers had failed to present a united front in the talks, putting them at a disadvantage.

‘Divisions’

“Google took advantage of our divisions to advance its interests,” the organisation said.

Sebastien Missoffe, chief executive of Google France, said last month that the agreement “confirms Google’s commitment to compensate publishers appropriately under French law, and opens up new opportunities for our publisher partners”.

The deal follows the EU’s adoption of the Copyright Reform Act in 2019, later implemented into French law, which requires online platforms such as Google to take responsibility for copyrighted content appearing on their services.

The “neighbouring rights” provision of the law requires tech platforms to open talks with news publishers over remuneration for their content, even if it only appears in the form of a snippet.

In September 2019 Google halted the ability of French users to view news snippets in search results due to the law.

In April 2020 France’s competition authority ordered Google to pay French publishers and news agencies for re-using their content, and in October a French appeals court told the company to begin talks within three months.

Australia is also preparing to introduce legislation this week that would oblige online platforms to pay publishers for their content.

Facebook and Google have both criticised the proposed Australian law, with Google saying it could withdraw its search engine from the country in response.

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