Google wants to bypass France’s neighbouring rights

"When the French law comes into force, we will no longer post an overview of the content in France for European news publishers, unless the publisher has taken steps to inform us of such a wish," the Google press release stated.

The American digital giant Google does not want to pay its due when the EU copyright directive comes into force in France. The online platform prefers to modify Google News rather than pay online news publishers. EURACTIV France reports.

Google announced that it would not pay online news publishers from France to display their content, once the EU copyright directive comes into force in October. The digital giant said it would take the measures to comply with the directive on Wednesday (25 September).

While the directive had created the notion of a “neighbouring right” allowing online newspaper publishers to be remunerated for publishing extracts of their articles on Google News, the American company has other ideas.

Google has announced its intention to change the rules for displaying article excerpts, as required by the new regulations. Instead of displaying headlines, a photo as well as the article’s first few lines, the search engine will only display headlines and URL links.

Excerpts

“Right now, when we display news-related research results, you see a title, with a link that goes directly to the relevant information site. In some cases, we also offer an overview of the article, for example, a few lines of text or a small image called a “thumbnail”, Google explained.

“When the French law comes into force, we will no longer post an overview of the content in France for European news publishers, unless the publisher has taken steps to inform us of such a wish,” Google’s press release stated.

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The European Parliament backed historic measures to reform EU copyright law on Tuesday (26 March) in a move set to have a far-reaching impact on rights for content creators and artists across the continent. 

The European directive was adopted last March after intense negotiations. The directive was transposed into French law in September.

France was the first member state to transpose the directive into law.

The French law provides that newspaper publishers can demand remuneration for the use of their work on online platforms, through the creation of a “neighbouring right” to copyright for the press. The purpose of the law is to allow publishers to enter into global licenses with platforms, and therefore receive some of Google’s advertising money.

Power balance

Attempts by publishers in Spain and Germany to charge Google for displaying article excerpts have already failed in the past. In response, the giant preferred to de-refer the articles, which caused a drastic drop in traffic to their website.

Other search engines, such as Qwant, have already announced their intention to pay newspaper publishers under the new law.

Qwant’s boss, Eric Léandri, announced that for France he intends to apply a similar agreement to that concluded with VG Media, the association of newspaper publishers in Germany. The deal with VG media foresees the transfer of 5% of the audience-generated revenues to online media.

A French first

Google’s announcement was quickly criticised in France, both by publishers and the government.

“You can’t have the choice between appearing and disappearing,” Pierre Louette, CEO of Les Echos and Le Parisien, said on Twitter.

“Google’s statements on the issue of compensation are not admissible. The political objective pursued by the creation of the neighbouring right, and its translation into law, are obvious: to allow a fair sharing of the value produced, for the benefit of platforms, by press content. From this point of view, Google’s proposal is not acceptable, as I have indicated to Mr Gingras and his teams,” said Franck Riester, France’s Culture Minister.

“I call for a genuine global negotiation between Google and the publishers: the unilateral definition of the rules of the game is contrary both to the spirit of the directive and to its text. I will be meeting with my European counterparts to address this situation very soon,” the minister added.

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