Microsoft engages with the European press

The American group differs from Facebook or Google, which are reluctant to pay the media for the use of their content.

One more fault line between the global tech giants. On Monday February 22, one of them, Microsoft, announced that it had signed an alliance with four European media associations (European Magazine Media Association, European Newspaper Publishers Association, European Publishers Council and News Media Europe) which represent more than a thousand publishers. An unprecedented alliance that is part of the heated discussions on the implementation of neighboring rights, approved by the European Parliament in 2019 and adapted since last year in French law.

The signatories say in particular that they want to find together “A solution which ensures that European press publishers are paid for the use of their content by the ‘gatekeeper’ platforms which dominate the market” and “Must include an arbitration mechanism” to ensure fair deals.

An outstretched hand

By this gesture, Microsoft marks its disagreement with its competitors Facebook or Google, who have been seeking, for more than a year, to escape this extension of copyright created by the EU in order to pay publishers for the use of their content by these major platforms.
A front has already been opened in France, where Google has just signed neighboring rights agreements with part of the press, in particular the major national dailies. But the web giant, which derives its fortune from its search engine – the first to be covered by neighboring rights – is at the same time opposed to the Australian bill aimed at forcing it to pay the media for the exploitation of their contents. For its part, Facebook is emerging from a standoff with the Australian government during which the social network went so far as to temporarily block all information content to exert pressure.

The alliance between Microsoft and the European press marks a step in the negotiations on neighboring rights which are to be announced in the coming months; they will continue in Australia, but also in all the countries where the American platforms operate. This hand extended to pioneer European publishers in particular gives the IT group the opportunity to recognize the de facto imbalance between the stakeholders in the discussions.

«Even if newspaper publishers have a neighboring right, they might not have enough economic clout to negotiate fair and balanced deals with those tech companies that dominate and control the market. These could threaten to withdraw from trading or exit markets altogether“, Thus indicate Microsoft and the European publishers in a joint press release.

Microsoft allows itself this step aside while its two rivals Facebook and Google as well as Amazon padlock at least two thirds of the global online advertising market, which now represents more than half of advertisers’ investments. The IT giant, publisher of leading operating systems and software, owns the Bing search engine, but which is in the minority compared to Google.

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