The new rule on so-called “neighbouring rights” is designed to ensure news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.
“Google’s practices caused a serious and immediate harm to the press sector, while the economic situation of publishers and news agencies is otherwise fragile,” France’s ‘Autorite de la Concurrence’ said in a statement.
While these will only apply to Google in France, the decision has global ramifications and is being viewed closely by media giants in Australia which have been arguing with the tech giant and the Federal Government along the same lines, for a level playing field of the media landscape.
Late last year the Morrison government granted companies like Google and Facebook the opportunity to work with traditional media companies to work up a voluntary code, threatening to seek a mandate by November this year if they could not come up with one.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Rod Sims said today that code was now more urgent than ever, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ACCC was aware of what had happened in France but he said Australia was one step ahead in terms of already reaching a negotiating position.
An ACCC report on the progress of those negotiations would be out in May and if progress had not been made the ACCC would mandate a code.
“We will see where we are at in May,” a spokeswoman said today.
A spokesman for the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the ACCC was already leading “this important work” similar to what the French are doing.
“The French competition authority’s approach addresses the same issues as those addressed by the Australian competition regulator, the ACCC, in its digital platforms inquiry,” he told News Corp Australia.
“Following that inquiry the Government has directed the ACCC to oversee the development of codes regulating the commercial relationships between the digital platforms and Australian media businesses.”
The French laws are to be applied retrospectively, that is back dated to October 2019, and came after Google spent months refusing to recognise Europe’s new digital copyright laws.
It is expected Google which effectively has a lock on internet searches in Europe and most of the world, refused to comply declaring that articles, pictures and videos would be shown in search results only if media groups consent to let the tech giant use them at no cost.
Google said if editors refused, only a headline and a bare link to the content would appear and would lead to further erosion of media groups’ ad revenue potential.
But the French regulator said “Google’s practices … were likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position, and caused serious and immediate harm to the press sector”.
France’s culture ministry, which subsidises much of the media sector, welcomed the injunction.
“Google now has to propose news publishers a fair remuneration commensurate with the value that the search engine derives from the content,” Culture Minister Franck Riester said today.
The European Newspaper Publishers’ Association said the French injunction provides “a necessary precedent also for a European-wide discussion on Google’s misuse of its market power in the field of neighbouring rights”.
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