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Google versus French media

Paris court to rule on negotiations order

By AFP - Oct 06,2020 - Last updated at Oct 06,2020

PARIS — A Paris appeals court will rule on Thursday on whether France's competition authority overstepped its jurisdiction in ordering Google to negotiate with media groups in a dispute about digital copyright.

The keenly awaited ruling will be the latest chapter in a long-running fight with European news companies demanding payment for content displayed in Google search results.

The outcome could have huge repercussions for the future of the press as it grapples with the decline in traditional print sales.

The US Internet giant is in a stand-off with European media groups, including Agence France-Presse, over its refusal to comply with a new European Union "neighbouring rights" law.

The law seeks to give a form of copyright protection to media firms when their content is used on websites, search engines and social media platforms.

But Google, which dominates internet searches, says that articles, pictures and videos will be shown in search results only if media groups consent to let the tech giant use them for free.

The juggernaut insists it should not have to pay to display items produced by news companies since they benefit from seeing hundreds of millions of visits to their websites.

If media companies insisted on payment, only a headline and a bare link to their content would appear, Google said, almost certainly resulting in a loss of visibility and potential ad revenue.

In 2019, France became the first country to ratify and apply the neighbouring rights law adopted by the European Parliament.

AFP and other media groups lodged a complaint against Google with France's competition regulator last November, claiming the company was not negotiating in a good faith attempt to settle the dispute fairly.

In April, the competition authority ordered Google "to conduct negotiations in good faith with publishers and news agencies on the remuneration for the re-use of their protected contents".

Google contested the decision.

If the Paris appeals court rules in Google's favour, it will be under no obligation to continue talks with press editors.

But the main issue before the competition authority — whether Google is abusing its dominant market position — remains to be decided, in a ruling expected early next year. 

Last week, Google said it planned to invest $1 billion in partnerships with news publishers worldwide to develop a "Showcase" app to highlight their reports.

Sebastien Missoffe, head of Google France, said the new service was being discussed with French media firms as part of negotiations over the EU law.

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