Google launches tool to extend licensing deals to more EU publishers

Negotiations between tech companies and press publishers over payment for the latter’s content have been ongoing since the introduction of the EU’s Copyright Directive.[Shutterstock / BigTunaOnline]

Google has struck licensing deals with more than 300 EU news publications and launched a tool to extend agreements to other outlets, the company announced on Wednesday (11 May).

Negotiations between tech companies and press publishers over the payment for the latter’s content have been ongoing since the introduction of the EU’s Copyright Directive. The 2019 law’s Article 15 affords publishers “neighbouring rights”, entitling them to fair remuneration from platforms for the reuse of their material.

“So far, we have agreements that cover more than 300 national, local and specialist news publications in Germany, Hungary, France, Austria, the Netherlands and Ireland, with many more discussions ongoing,” Google said in a blog post.

Over 220 of these agreements are with German publishers, including major outlets such as Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, along with many smaller local and specialist publications. 

As part of negotiations, Google has been making offers of “Extended News Preview” (ENP) agreements to publishers in countries that have transposed Article 15.

Under these agreements, Google pays publishers to display an enhanced preview of their news content in search results through, for example, the use of snippets and thumbnails. 

Wednesday’s announcement also saw the launch of a new tool, which the company says will allow these ENP offers to be made to “thousands more news publishers”, beginning with those in Germany and Hungary and eventually expanding to other EU countries.

The tool will be available via Google’s Search Console and will allow publishers to register for ENP status and manage their agreements.

“It is encouraging that Google is now making an effort, contrary to earlier statements by the company, to comply with local laws and remunerate publishers for the use of their content,” Wout van Wijk, Executive Director of News Media Europe, told EURACTIV. 

“We need to see how this works in practice, though,” he added, “and understand what the benefits are to European news publishers. It very much looks like a take-it-or-leave-it offer, where there’s no room for negotiation on the terms and conditions of the licence.” 

Ilias Konteas, Executive Director of the European Magazine Media Association and the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (EMMA-ENPA), voiced a similar concern. He told EURACTIV that “these initiatives should not replace fair and non-discriminatory licensing agreements. On that basis, initiatives that only pick and choose a handful of publishers, in the end, do not deliver the necessary results.”

On the ENP tool, van Wijk added that the implications for publishers who chose not to sign up also needed to be understood. “Will that affect their ranking, findability?” he asked. ”But also, will Google leverage this in the negotiations around the copyright licences under the EU Directive and Google News Showcase for instance?”

The Copyright Directive’s transposition has been slow, with less than half of member states transposing it into national law almost a year after the deadline.

However, where it has been transposed, it has caused considerable controversy as publishers and platforms have battled to find common ground. 

Copyright Directive transposition still lagging despite infringement procedures

The first anniversary of the deadline for transposing the EU’s controversial new Copyright Directive into national legislation is less than two months away and only 12 member states have complied so far.

High-profile disputes have arisen in France, the first country to transpose the directive.

The French Competition Authority in July last year fined Google €500 million for what it said was the company’s failure to negotiate “in good faith” with publishers. Publishers have now established a body through which to negotiate with platforms collectively. 

French publishers close to launch collective negotiations on neighbouring rights

French publishers are close to launching a new body to collectively negotiate with online platforms, while the dispute with Google raises fundamental questions on how to monetise online content.

Some deals have been being struck, however. Facebook announced in October that it had reached an agreement with the country’s publisher’s lobby, the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG). Earlier this year, Meta rolled out Facebook News in France, the first EU country to receive the platform, partnering with 100 outlets in the country to provide links to their content. 

In both cases, as well as with Google’s licensing agreements, the exact details of the remuneration have not been made public.

Meta launches Facebook News in France

Meta has launched its Facebook News service in France, which will centralise news from around 100 media outlets from across the country and will be gradually rolled out from Tuesday (15 February) until all users can access it in May.

Ensuring fair remuneration has also arisen as a topic of consideration within negations on the EU’s landmark Digital Markets Act. In the act, obligations for Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) conditions have been extended to cover social media platforms and search engines rather than just app stores as in the original proposal.

Publishers' last-minute attempt to secure ‘fair’ remuneration in the Digital Markets Act

A last-minute proposal to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) could oblige gatekeepers to put in place fair conditions and an arbitration mechanism for the remuneration of rightsholders.

The European Parliament has been pushing for extending the provisions on fair, reasonable and …

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/ Alice Taylor]

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