France orders Google to pay media groups for displaying their content

France orders Google to pay media groups for displaying their content as competition regulator says internet giant’s practices ’caused serious and immediate harm’ to press sector

  • New law is meant to ensure publishers are paid when work appears on Google
  • But Google refused to comply and said it would only show minimal results
  • French officials found Google’s practices were an ‘abuse of dominant position’ 

France has today ordered Google to start paying media groups for displaying their content. 

Regulators found that the search giant’s practices caused ‘serious and immediate harm’ to the French press sector. 

Google has refused for months to comply with Europe’s new digital copyright law, saying it would downgrade search results for publishers who asked for money. 

The US company’s behaviour was ‘likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position’, the competition regulator found.   

Google has been ordered by French regulators to pay media groups for displaying their content (file photo) 

The new rule on so-called ‘neighbouring rights’ is meant to guarantee that news publishers are paid when their work appears on search engines and social media.  

But Google refused to comply, saying that articles, pictures and videos would be shown in search results only if Google would not have to pay.

If they refuse, only a headline and a bare link to the content will appear, Google said, almost certainly resulting in a loss of visibility and potential ad revenue for the publisher.

Media groups and news agency AFP lodged a complaint with the competition regulator last November. 

The regulator said today that ‘Google’s practices… were likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position, and caused serious and immediate harm to the press sector’.

Google is required ‘to conduct negotiations with publishers and news agencies on the remuneration for the re-use of their protected content’, the regulator said. 

‘This injunction requires that the negotiations effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google,’ the agency said.  

The remuneration must be applied retroactively to October 2019, when France became the first country to ratify the EU law.   

Google said that since the new copyright law came into force in France last year it had been ‘engaging with publishers to increase our support and investment in news’.

The company’s Vice President for News, Richard Gingras, said in a statement: ‘We will comply with the order while we review it and continue those negotiations’.

A customer buys a magazine at a newspaper kiosk in Paris today. French regulators found there was ‘serious and immediate harm’ to the media sector from Google’s practices 

Google had previously said that the law does not impose a fee for posting links, and that European news publishers already derived significant value from the eight billion visits they receive each month from users who search on Google. 

While the law does include the option of free licences, the regulator questioned Google’s position that generally nothing would be paid for the display of any protected content.

It said: ‘This choice seems difficult to reconcile with the purpose and scope of the law, which aimed to redefine the sharing of value in favour of press publishers vis-à-vis platforms, by assigning a neighbouring right which must give rise to remuneration.’ 

Furthermore, the regulator said by imposing a principle of zero remuneration on all publishers without examining their respective situations, Google may have engaged in discriminatory practices that would constitute an abuse of a dominant position.

The regulator said that the interim measures, which will require Google to publish material via methods chosen by publishers, will help provide for balanced negotiations and ensure neutrality for how information is indexed.   

Google is required to submit monthly reports on procedures for implementing the injunction.

France’s culture ministry, which subsidises much of the media sector, welcomed the injunction.

‘Google now has to propose news publishers a fair remuneration commensurate with the value that the search engine derives from the content,’ culture minister Franck Riester said in a statement. 

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