Corint Media sues Microsoft for €20m over press content use

As stated by Corint Media, this step was taken “after more than two years of talks without any acceptable result on an appropriate remuneration for the use of press content by Microsoft Bing and MSN.” [Volodymyr Kyrylyuk/Shutterstock]

Corint Media has enforced the press publishers’ right against Microsoft – a legal action that comes after over two years of discussions on the licensing of press content use, for which Corint demands a multiple of Microsoft’s offer.

On Friday (1 April) the supervisory board of the European licensing corporation Corint Media shared its decision to take legal action against Microsoft over its press content use. As stated by the corporation, this step was taken “after more than two years of talks without any acceptable result on an appropriate remuneration for the use of press content by Microsoft Bing and MSN.”

Corint Media represents copyrights and neighbouring rights for German and international private TV and broadcast stations as well as numerous press publishers. 

According to media reports, Corint Media demanded €20 million for press content use for 2022, whereas Microsoft offered €700,000. In line with the European Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market, press publishers should receive appropriate financial remuneration for their content in exchange for licences. 

However, as it is also in the press publishers’ interest to get news exposure via well-known platforms, the argumentation for a fair licensing fee is highly complicated. 

The Copyright Directive was due to be implemented by the EU member states in June 2021. In Germany, the Copyright Service Provider Act took effect just after the deadline on 1 August 2021.

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Reasoning for the lawsuit against Microsoft

According to Corint Media, the adequate amount for press content use for Microsoft should be €20 million, which they regard in proportion to the company’s revenue. 

Corint Media representatives called Microsoft’s behaviour regarding what they consider a low offer “contradictory”. 

Markus Runde and Christoph Schwennicke, managing directors of Corint Media, said: “The clear discrepancy between the public statements of Microsoft’s management and actual practice is astonishing. Publicly, the company has repeatedly declared its support for press diversity and announced that it would honour press protection rights by making payments. Unfortunately, reality falls completely short of this announcement.”

Microsoft has been entering into licensing agreements with publishers since 2014. “We remain committed to finding viable solutions for publishers, including those represented by Corint, that will ensure a strong and independent press that is essential for democracy,” a Microsoft spokesperson told EURACTIV.

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Previous outcomes and competition authorities

In Germany, attempts to put press publishers in a better position through copyright laws have already been made before the EU-wide Copyright Directive. However, the outcomes thereof have been “disappointing”, according to Dr Eleonora Rosati, a professor of IP law and the director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Market Law at Stockholm University. 

For instance, in 2013, the Court of Justice of the EU said that copyright laws in Germany that restrict the ability of internet search engines to reproduce content produced by publishers have been ruled “unenforceable”. In light of the implementation of the EU copyright directive, expectations to improve this situation have been high. 

“The press sector has been struggling for years and legal tools should have given a hand to press publishers,” Rosati told EURACTIV. “Now, things are looking a bit better because competition authorities seem keener to look into potential antitrust angles when it seems there is an abuse of the dominance of these players.”

Corint Media has previously filed a complaint with the Federal Cartel Office in 2020 against Google and Meta for their “market-abusive behaviour”. This opened up proceedings against Google News Showcase. In March 2022, Corint Media rejected an offer of €3.2 million per year by Google, instead of demanding €420 million for 2022.  

Concerning the Corint Media versus Microsoft case, spokespeople for Corint Media estimate the procedure to take less than a year. 

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald/Luca Bertuzzi]

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