Bun­des­kar­tell­amt: Par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in “Goog­le News Show­ca­se” must not hin­der collec­ti­ve rights manage­ment

First assess­ment of the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt on Goog­le News Show­ca­se publis­hed. Arbi­tra­ti­on Board at the DPMA deter­mi­nes appro­pria­te remu­ne­ra­ti­on. Bun­des­kar­tell­amt exami­nes par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in the­se pro­cee­dings. Bun­des­kar­tell­amt sta­tes that “Goog­le News Show­ca­se” may not be lin­ked to Goog­le search – con­tra­ry to Google’s ori­gi­nal inten­ti­on. Fur­ther­mo­re, the licen­sing obli­ga­ti­on of the “Show­ca­se” is empha­sis­ed . Par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of press publis­hers in the “Show­ca­se” must be pos­si­ble inde­pendent­ly of the collec­ti­ve manage­ment of rights.

Press Release
Ber­lin, 2022-12-21

The Ger­man Federal Car­tel Office (Bun­des­kar­tell­amt) has com­mu­ni­ca­ted its first assess­ment of the “Goog­le News Show­ca­se” inter­face. Accord­ing to the Office, Goog­le has to give in on cru­cial points. Thus the com­pa­ny has to amend several clau­ses in con­tracts that would have made it impos­si­ble for publis­hers to par­ti­ci­pa­te in Show­ca­se and at the same time collec­tively enfor­ce press publis­hers’ rights. In addi­ti­on, Goog­le must pro­ve that embed­ding Goog­le News Show­ca­se in Goog­le Search will no lon­ger be pur­sued. The Office will moni­tor the imple­men­ta­ti­on of the­se mea­su­res in fol­low-up pro­cee­dings.

The Bun­des­kar­tell­amt has not exami­ned the ques­ti­on of an appro­pria­te remu­ne­ra­ti­on of the use of pro­tec­ted press con­tent and refers to the Arbi­tra­ti­on Board at the Ger­man Patent and Tra­de Mark Office (DPMA) as the pri­ma­ri­ly com­pe­tent body in copy­right remu­ne­ra­ti­on mat­ters. The BKar­tA announ­ces that it will par­ti­ci­pa­te in the pro­cee­dings befo­re the Arbi­tra­ti­on Board if necessa­ry. This makes it clear that the office will con­ti­nue to moni­tor Google’s domi­nant posi­ti­on as an important fac­tor influ­en­cing the remu­ne­ra­ti­on level to be deter­mi­ned at the expen­se of press publis­hers.

In addi­ti­on, the Office cla­ri­fied that “Goog­le News Show­ca­se” is sub­ject to licen­sing on the basis of press ancil­la­ry copy­right and that the par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of press publis­hers in “Show­ca­se” should not hin­der the collec­ti­ve enfor­ce­ment of press ancil­la­ry copy­right. Andre­as Mundt, Pre­si­dent of the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt, said: “Goog­le has chan­ged its con­trac­tu­al prac­ti­ce in such a way that it does not make it more dif­fi­cult for publis­hers to enfor­ce their gene­ral press ancil­la­ry copy­right.”

Accord­ing to the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt, Goog­le must pro­vi­de even clea­rer infor­ma­ti­on on the essen­ti­al frame­work con­di­ti­ons, inclu­ding the mode of ope­ra­ti­on and the actu­al par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on requi­re­ments of “Show­ca­se”, in order to ensu­re non-discri­mi­na­to­ry access.

Corint Media mana­ging direc­tors Mar­kus Run­de and Chris­toph Schwennicke com­ment: “ ‘Goog­le News Show­ca­se’ was and is an attempt by Goog­le to cir­cum­vent the legal rights of press publis­hers. After the first assess­ment of the Ger­man Federal Car­tel Office this will now beco­me more dif­fi­cult, even though the decisi­on of the Car­tel Office neit­her takes into account the new link with ‘Dis­co­ver’ in par­ti­cu­lar nor makes use of the pos­si­bi­li­ties of the new com­pe­ti­ti­on law accord­ing to Sec­tion 19a GWB. We will have to see whe­ther Goog­le com­plies with the orders and is pre­pa­red to actual­ly behave in a law-abi­ding man­ner, or con­ti­nues to try to under­mi­ne press publis­hers’ law.”

Last year, the French anti­trust aut­ho­ri­ty took a more decisi­ve action against Goog­le than the Ger­man Federal Car­tel Office on the basis of the EU-wide press publis­hers’ right. The com­pe­ti­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ties in Fran­ce had descri­bed “Goog­le News Show­ca­se” as a means of under­mi­ning press ancil­la­ry copy­right and impo­sed a com­pe­ti­ti­on fine of 500 mil­li­on euros on Goog­le. Under pres­su­re from the com­pe­ti­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ties, French dai­ly news­pa­pers and maga­zi­nes were then able to reach an agree­ment with Goog­le on licence pay­ments in the high dou­ble-digit mil­li­ons. In the lar­ger Ger­man mar­ket, on the other hand, Goog­le is only offe­ring pay­ments of bet­ween 10 and 15 mil­li­on euros for the cor­re­spon­ding press ancil­la­ry copy­right.

Accord­ing to the decisi­on of the Federal Car­tel Office, the Arbi­tra­ti­on Board of the Ger­man Patent and Tra­de Mark Office (DPMA) must now deci­de on the amount of an appro­pria­te remu­ne­ra­ti­on by Goog­le . In the pro­cee­dings against Micro­soft, the Arbi­tra­ti­on Board had recent­ly pro­po­sed an inte­rim remu­ne­ra­ti­on of 1.2 mil­li­on euros for the peri­od from 7 June 2021 until the end of 2022 and fur­ther 800,000 euros annu­al­ly for the Corint Media publis­hers. Micro­soft has accep­ted this pro­po­sal. The Micro­soft-ope­ra­ted search engi­ne Bing holds around four to five per cent mar­ket share in Ger­ma­ny. Goog­le, with a mar­ket share of more than 90 per cent, had offe­red in spring 2022 a remu­ne­ra­ti­on of only 3.2 mil­li­on euros per year (see Press release Corint Media of 3 March 2022 ).

Accord­ing to the Euro­pe-wide uni­fied copy­right law, com­pa­nies like Face­book and Goog­le are sup­po­sed to com­pen­sa­te press publis­hers for using their con­tent to enhan­ce their own offe­rings. After years of refu­sing to pay for the use of other people’s con­tent, the search engi­ne pro­vi­der now offers selec­ted press publis­hers see­min­gly lucra­ti­ve remu­ne­ra­ti­on via “Goog­le News Show­ca­se”, while a lar­ge part of the press — espe­cial­ly small and regio­nal publis­hers — are fob­bed off with mini­mal pay­ments or not paid at all. In Corint Media’s view, Google’s attempt to divi­de the indus­try in this way con­sti­tu­tes anti-com­pe­ti­ti­ve beha­viour by a mar­ket domi­na­tor . Accord­ing to Corint Media, the con­di­ti­ons and the very low remu­ne­ra­ti­on by Goog­le can only be achie­ved becau­se Goog­le, with its mar­ket power, is an indis­pensable dis­tri­bu­ti­on chan­nel for online media. In the past, Goog­le had threa­tened several times to show publis­hers who want to exer­cise their rights less favour­a­b­ly in Goog­le Search, and also car­ri­ed out this thre­at.

During the anti­trust inves­ti­ga­ti­on, Car­tel Office head And­res Mundt had sta­ted: “The con­di­ti­ons for par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in Goog­le News Show­ca­se are not inten­ded to hin­der the asser­ti­on of the gene­ral ancil­la­ry copy­right of press publis­hers” and “In par­al­lel to the Goog­le News Show­ca­se pro­cee­dings, we are kee­ping a clo­se eye on the nego­tia­ti­ons on the remu­ne­ra­ti­on of the ancil­la­ry copy­right.”

Recent­ly, cri­ti­cism of Google’s beha­viour has also been voi­ced by aut­hors. In a press release, DJV Federal Chair­man Frank Über­all deman­ded that the search engi­ne giant Goog­le should not just pay lip ser­vice to the impor­t­ance of jour­na­lism, but should final­ly pay for it. In the cur­rent situa­ti­on of indi­vi­du­al con­tracts bet­ween Goog­le and the publis­hers, the legal­ly sti­pu­la­ted par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of aut­hors comes to not­hing, sin­ce the majo­ri­ty of pay­ments are not decla­red for press rights, but com­pen­sa­te other ser­vices that are not sub­ject to par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on.

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