French competition body accepts Google’s commitments on ‘neighbouring rights’

After months of back and forth between the competition authority and the US giant, as well as consultations with stakeholders, Google transmitted on 9 May its final proposal of measures it would commit to take. [Funstock/Shutterstock]

France’s competition watchdog accepts Google’s commitments following negotiations with press publishers over neighbouring rights, the body said on Tuesday (21 June), while the US giant said it will not contest the €500 million fine against it.

Read the original article in French here.

France was the first EU country to transpose the EU’s neighbouring rights directive from April 2019 and adopted a law on 24 July 2019 that allows press agencies and publishers to claim compensation for the re-use of their journalistic content by search engines like Google or social networks like Facebook.

“The Authority today welcomes the commitments made by Google in the context of the proceedings on the merits. The combination of these different means of action now makes it possible to create an environment offering greater stability and guarantees of fairness for publishers and press agencies,” said Benoît Cœuré, president of the French Competition Authority.

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Difficult negotiations

However, the negotiations between Google and the publishers proved challenging, as they discussed a global licensing contract for remunerating editorial content that would feature on its new product, Showcase.

The French competition watchdog requested Google in April 2020 to begin negotiations with press publishers “in good faith”.

As Google continued not to negotiate “in good faith”, the French watchdog slapped a €500 million fine on the company in July 2021, along with a fine of up to €900,000 for every day it failed to comply with demands.

The regulator also accused the tech giant of excluding press content not certified as political and general information and of refusing to pay press agencies any remuneration for the content taken over by press publishers.

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Fresh commitments

After months of back and forth between the competition authority and the US giant, as well as consultations with stakeholders, Google transmitted on 9 May its final proposal of measures it would commit to taking.

“The Authority considers that the commitments proposed by Google are likely to put an end to the competition concerns expressed and are substantial, credible and verifiable,” the French organisation wrote in a press release, specifying that they will initially be binding for five years.

Google said it would work towards extending the scope of negotiations to all publishers, including news agencies, towards transmitting the information necessary for a “transparent” evaluation of remuneration and to conduct discussions “on the basis of transparent, objective and non-discriminatory criteria”.

It has also committed to distinguishing its negotiations related to neighbouring rights from those for its Showcase offer.

“For the first time in Europe, the commitments made by Google set out a dynamic framework for negotiating and sharing the information necessary for a transparent assessment of the remuneration of direct and indirect neighbouring rights,” Cœuré, added.

Google has also stopped opposing the fine against it, meaning it will pay it without contesting it in court, as it had the right to do.

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[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Alice Taylor]

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