It is a victory for press publishers. The French Competition Authority has responded favorably to their request to impose provisional measures against Google in the thorny neighboring rights case. Coming into force at the end of October, French law, transposed from a European directive, requires platforms to pay publishers a fee in exchange for the resumption of their content. But Google had exploited loopholes in the law to impose on media groups its conditions: either the latter renounce their remuneration, or only the title of their articles would be indexed on its search engine and on Google News.
In its decision, the Competition Authority considers that “Google could have abused its dominant position to circumvent the law on neighboring rights ” by imposing “To publishers and news agencies unfair trading conditions while avoiding any form of negotiation and remuneration.” “The Authority has taken into account the fact that Google’s new display policy has imposed on the sector players more unfavorable transaction conditions than those which existed before the entry into force of the law on neighboring rights, and that those that should have resulted from good faith negotiations. ” This is made possible “By the dominant position that Google is likely to hold on the market of general search services” in France, continues the Authority.
The majority of media groups have reluctantly accepted Google’s terms for fear of seeing their traffic from the search engine plunge. For the Internet user, it is much less attractive to click on a simple title, rather than on an “enriched result” with a summary, a photo … The Authority considers that this is “A serious and immediate attack on the press sector, resulting from the behavior of Google, which, in a context of major crisis in this sector, deprives publishers and press agencies of a vital resource to ensure the sustainability of their activities. “
Google forced to negotiate “in good faith”
The latter has therefore taken several precautionary measures, pending a decision on the merits, a procedure which can take many months, even years. These measures force the search engine to get around the table with press publishers to negotiate “in good faith” their remuneration in the name of neighboring rights. To prevent discussions deliberately dragging on, they will be limited to three months “From the request of the publisher or the press agency”.
The Authority has foreseen the possibility that Google may try to blackmail during the discussions. Negotiations should not “Affect neither the indexing, nor the classification, nor the presentation of the protected content included by Google on its services“Until the Authority renders its decision on the merits. Nor should discussions “Affect other economic relationships that may exist between Google and publishers and news agencies.” And Google will have to submit a report every month “On how it complies with these decisions”.
In a press release, Jean-Michel Baylet, president of the Alliance of the press of information, qualified this decision of “Great victory”. “We still have an important job to do to succeed but as this decision proves, our theses and our fight are just”, he writes. “We will work with our task force to rapidly implement this decision so that the interests and rights of all publishers in the Alliance can be defended.”
Google reacted through Richard Gingras, vice president of media relations. “Since the transposition in France of article 15 of the European copyright directive, we have been talking to a large number of press publishers in order to increase our support and our investments for the benefit of the press sector. We will comply with the decision of the Competition Authority that we are analyzing, while continuing these negotiations“, He says. Richard Gingras refers to the creation of a new tab within Google News, where participating publishers would be paid. The media welcomed this proposal, but on the condition that it does not replace the settlement of neighboring rights.