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October 13, 2020

French court orders Google to negotiate payment with news outlets

By Mohamed Dabo

The Paris Court of Appeal has upheld the Competition Authority’s decision forcing Google to negotiate with French news publishers and agencies regarding payments for the use of their content.

The Competition Authority is responsible for combating anti-competitive practices and overseeing the functioning of markets.

The French regulator had argued that Google must sit down for talks under a “neighbouring rights” law adopted after the European Union overhauled the bloc’s copyright rules, which include allowing news companies to demand payments when search engines display snippets of their stories.

Google had balked and threatened last year to stop displaying snippets and thumbnail photos in its search results, but French regulators said in April that the company was likely abusing its dominant position.

Google’s arguments

Google argued it shouldn’t have to pay because news companies benefit from the millions of readers it sends to their websites.

The company also unsuccessfully argued that the competition watchdog overstepped its authority.

Google has at the same time been in more narrowly focused talks on digital copyright with French newspapers and said a day earlier it’s on the verge of reaching a deal.

“Our priority remains to reach an agreement with the French publishers and press agencies,” the company said. “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.”

Google and Facebook are facing pressure from other quarters

News companies had pushed for the EU copyright reform amid worries that quality journalism is on the decline as ad revenue gets siphoned off by the digital giants.

Google and Facebook are also facing pressure in Australia, which wants to make them pay for using news content.

Meanwhile, Google said last week it would pay publishers in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the U.K. $1bn over the next three years for their news as it seeks to defuse tensions with the industry.

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