AFP takes action against Google over copyright impasse


Last April, France's competition authority ordered Google to negotiate 'in good faith' with media groups, after it refused to comply with a new EU law governing digital copyrights. — AFP

PARIS: Agence France-Presse announced Sept 8 that it had lodged a complaint with French regulators over a standoff with Google, saying the US giant is refusing to move forward on paying to display the agency's content in web searches.

Last April, France's competition authority ordered Google to negotiate "in good faith" with media groups, after it refused to comply with a new EU law governing digital copyrights.

The so-called "neighbouring rights" aim to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.

Although talks were carried out over several months, news publishers said Google was refusing to budge, prompting complaints by the newspapers' alliance APIG as well as French magazine publishers.

"We have also filed a complaint with the competition authority because we consider that Google has not negotiated in good faith," AFP's chief executive Fabrice Fries said.

"Google offered to extend the talks, but we refused because they were going nowhere – we determined they would not advance unless there was a change in method," he said.

Isabelle de Silva, president of the competition authority, said one option could be to name a mediator for the talks, as suggested by some participants in recent weeks.

For now, however, the regulator is waiting for a ruling from a Paris appeals court after Google challenged the validity of the negotiations imposed last April.

De Silva said a court hearing was set for Sept 10, and a ruling could come as soon as this month.

Google has maintained that it should not have to pay to display pictures, videos or text snippets alongside search results, saying the practice drives hundreds of millions of visits to publishers' websites each month.

After the EU's neighbouring rights law came into effect, it warned that associated content would be shown in search results only if media groups consented to let Google use them at no cost.

News publishers denounced an ultimatum that would almost certainly result in their losing visibility and potential ad revenues. – AFP

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