French Media to Sue Google for Refusing to Pay under EU’s New Copyright Law

French Media to Sue Google for Refusing to Pay under EU’s New Copyright Law

Media from France and the rest of the EU are accusing Google of trying to circumvent its obligation under the new EU legislation.

French media business are set to refer Google to France’s competition watchdog as the US tech giant is refusing to pay for displaying their content in search results as stipulated by the European Union’s recently adopted new copyright law.

Under the EU’s new Copyright Directive, which was adopted in the spring of 2019 after many controversies and protests by US online giants and Internet freedom activists, search engines and social media are obliged to pay publishers for showing articles, pictures, and videos in search results and posts.

In July, France became the first country to ratify the new EU copyright law, which entered into force on Thursday, October 24, 2019.

However, leading global search engine Google says articles, pictures and videos will be shown in search results only if media firms agree to allow it to use them for free. Otherwise, Google would display just a headline and a bare link to the content in question.

This has led to indignation among French media that Google is not just refusing to pay them but its policy would result in a loss of visibility and reduced advertising revenues.

France’s APIG press alliance, which unites tens of national and regional newspapers, made it clear on Thursday it was also going to urge the French government to take measures against Google’s refusal to comply the new EU law, in addition to referring the tech giant to competition authorities.

“We are outraged,” said Jean-Michel Baylet, APIG president and chief executive of the Depeche du Midi newspaper in southern France, as cited by AFP and France24.

“Nobody can flout the law, but that’s what Google is doing. The future of the French and European press is at stake,” he added.

International news agency Agence France-Presse, which is not a member of APIG, is also preparing a separate complaint against Google.

“This is an act of force from Google,” said Pierre Louette, chief executive (CEO) of Les Echos-Le Parisien media group, accusing the company of trying to “circumvent” the law.

“Google is offering us a choice between amputating our (Internet) traffic, which will prevent readers from finding us or accessing our sites via its search engine, and amputating our rights,” he was quoted as saying.

Google reacted by rejecting the allegations of the French media firms in a statement to AFP.

“Google helps internet users find news content from many sources and the results are always based on relevance, not trade agreements… Publishers have never had so many choices about how their content is displayed on Google,” it stated.

The US Internet giant also insisted that it was not going to remove media from search results or change the way it assesses their relevance just because they refused to grant it the right to use their content for free.

“The law does not impose a fee for posting links, and European news publishers already derive significant value from the eight billion visits they receive each month from Internet users who do searches on Google,” it said.

Earlier this week more than 1,000 journalists, photographers, filmmakers and media CEOs signed an open letter published in newspapers across Europe urging governments to guarantee that Google and other Internet or social media corporations comply with the new EU rule.

“The existing situation, in which Google enjoys most of the advertising revenue generated by the news that it rakes in without any payment, is untenable and has plunged the media into a crisis that is deepening each year,” it said.

The presidents of the European Alliance of News Agencies and the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association also signed the letter.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said Google must comply with the law, which EU member states are obliged to translate into domestic legislation by June 2021.

“Google is making a big mistake. It is not up to companies to decide the law and spirit of the law,” France’s Digital Affairs Minister Cedric O said on Thursday.

Google also made it clear it would be available to answer any questions to the competition authority.

(Banner image: Pixabay)

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