A Paris appeals court has backed the French competition regulator’s order that Google must pay news companies for use of their copyrighted content.
Google had argued that news companies benefit by having their articles listed on its search engine which drives millions of visitors, but the French press said this was dwarfed by the billions the US firm reaps in advertising revenue.
The ruling in Paris will be watched keenly by governments across the world, not least in London and Washington, which have raised concerns over the ‘advertising duopoly’ operated by Google and Facebook.
In the United Kingdom, 36.7 per cent of all online advertising revenue is earned by Google and 28 per cent by Facebook. The online advertising market was worth £13.5billion in the UK last year.
A Paris appeals court has backed the French competition regulator’s order that Google must pay news companies for use of their copyrighted content. Pictured: The google offices at Googleplex in Menlo Park, California
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai (left) and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (right)
In 2019, France became the first country to ratify and apply the copyright law adopted by the European Parliament that includes so-called neighbouring rights that include the use of news in search results.
Agence France Presse, the national press agency, and other media groups lodged a complaint against Google with France’s competition regulator last November, claiming the company was not negotiating in good faith to settle the dispute.
In April, the competition authority ordered Google ‘to conduct negotiations in good faith with publishers and news agencies on the remuneration for the re-use of their protected contents.’
Although Google’s CEO Sundar Picahai last week pledged to pay $1 billion to publishers globally for their news over the next three years, the French arrangement means it will have to specifically address remuneration with publishers and news agencies in France.
The French court’s ruling comes hours after Google, the world’s biggest search engine, said it was set to reach with a deal to pay French publishers for their news in the latest move to placate media groups and head off regulators siding with publishers seeking a level playing field.
‘Our priority remains to reach an agreement with the French publishers and press agencies,’ Google said in a statement.
‘We appealed to get legal clarity on some parts of the order, and we will now review the decision of the Paris court of appeal.’
The main issue before the competition authority – whether Google is abusing its dominant market position – remains to be decided, in a ruling expected early next year.
In addition to the negotiations with French newspapers, Google is in separate talks with AFP and magazine publishers.
In December, the French competition regulator fined Google £128 million for ‘abusing its dominant position’ and unfairly banning websites from advertising on its search engine.
The authority’s chief Isabelle de Silva accused the tech giant of ‘brutal and unjustified’ suspension of advertisers.
She added: ‘Google has the power of life or death for certain companies that live by these advertisements.
‘We don’t contest Google’s right to impose rules. But the rules must be clear and imposed equally to all advertisers.’
The authority, in its first ever sanctioning of the American giant, said the methods used by Google Ads are ‘opaque and difficult to understand’ and that the company applies them in an ‘unfair and random manner.’
France is not the only country where Google has come under pressure from the government to share its revenue with local media.
The Australian government has drafted a law to make Facebook and Google pay for news content it uses.