Alphabet’s Google has agreed to pay a consortium of 121 French news publishers $76 million over three years to resolve a more than year-long copyright spat, documents were seen by Reuters reveal.
An agreement was previously announced between Google and the Alliance de la presse d’information générale (APIG), a lobby organization representing most of the major French publishers, but the financial terms were not disclosed.
Many other French outlets were infuriated by the move, which considered it unreasonable and opaque. The French deal, the world’s highest-profile under Google’s new scheme to offer credit for news snippets used in search results, will be scrutinized by publishers in other nations.
Agence France Press (AFP) and other non-Group French news providers are not part of the Deal and are moving the various measures against Google forward.
The agreement follows the adoption by France of the first copyright regulation implemented under the recent EU law establishing ‘neighboring rights’ requiring major technology networks to open talks with publishers requesting remuneration for the use of news material.
In Australia, lawmakers have drafted legalization that would force Google and Facebook to pay publishers and broadcasters for content. Google has threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia if the country adopts that strategy, which the company called “unworkable.”
Reuters’ French documents include a framework agreement in which Google will pay $22 million annually to a group of 121 national and local French news publications for three years, following the signing of individual licensing agreements for each of them.
The second document is a settlement deal in which Google offers to pay the same party $10 million in return for the promise of the publishers not to sue for three years over copyright claims.
Publishers will commit themselves to Google News Showcase, an upcoming new product that will allow publishers to curate content and have limited access to paywalled stories.
Google refused to comment on the deal’s conditions.
The Reuters news agency, a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters Corp, signed an agreement with Google in January to be Google News Showcase’s first global news provider.
Reuters’ French competitor, AFP, kept its complaint against Google with the French competition watchdog, an internal source said. Fabrice Fries, Chief Executive of AFP, welcomed the agreement between Google and APIG last month but called on the technology giant to expand those copyright agreements to news organizations.
Making Google pay
Globally, the pressure is rising on Google to pay for news material, as the ads and profits of the industry have decreased with the growth of digital platforms.
Publishers have tried but failed to charge Google for viewing excerpts, or fragments, in Spain and Germany. Since 2013, German publishers have lost a legal battle for copyright fees worth EUR 1 billion in 2019.
The text of the EU’s ‘neighboring rights’ regulation was intended to create a new sustainable income source for news publishers.
The news industry in the United States supports legislation that would allow it to negotiate with the major platforms individually without breaching antitrust laws. In Congress, lawmakers recently released a study stating that powerful tech giants have affected the news industry because they “can impose unilateral terms on publishers, such as take-it-or-leave-it revenue sharing agreements.”
Andrew MacLeod, Chief Executive of Postmedia Canada, said publishers are watching conversations in other parts of the globe. “We seek an outcome to grow and architect our future rather than relying on a handout.”
Three sources close to the matter, citing pressure from shareholders, had no choice but to go through with the agreement.
The same sources said that some publishers were upset that Google declined to provide access to information that shows how much money it makes from the news.
Spiil, the union for independent online news publishers, said this week, “These opaque agreements don’t ensure the fair treatment of all news publishers, since the calculation formula isn’t made public,” “Google took advantage of our divisions to advance its interests.”
Fees range from as high as $1.3 million to $13,741 for local publisher La Voix de la Haute Marne for France’s reference daily Le Monde, records reveal.
They did not explain how they measured the quantities.
Leading national newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation and their organizations negotiated approximately EUR 3 million (US$ 3.6 million) a year on top of the fee in the deal, notably by agreeing in November to sell subscriptions through Google, a source close to the subject said.
Louis Dreyfus, head of Le Monde Party, and Denis Olivennes, boss of Liberation, declined to comment. Representatives for Le Figaro were not available for comment immediately.
Pierre Louette, APIG’s head, did not respond to messages requesting comment.