Face­book refu­ses to pay Ger­man publishers

Jean-Marie Cava­da, Chair­man of the French coll­ec­ting socie­ty DVP, and for­mer Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, sees con­tra­dic­to­ry beha­viour of Meta/Facebook: pay­ing in France and refu­sing appli­ca­bi­li­ty of the law in Ger­ma­ny — this is deli­bera­te­ly ille­gal

Press Release
Ber­lin, 2022-04-11

The com­pa­ny Meta, to which the world’s lar­gest social net­work Face­book belongs, rejects the appli­ca­ti­on of press publishers’ law. Accor­din­gly, pay­ment to publishers for the use of press con­tent is not pos­si­ble. Corint Media had repea­ted­ly offe­red Meta nego­tia­ti­ons on a licence agree­ment or an inte­rim agree­ment sin­ce Sep­tem­ber 2021. This should at least put an end to the unlawful use of press publishers’ rights by Face­book and other Meta ser­vices, which have been in force sin­ce June 2021.

Meta has now sta­ted that the law does not app­ly to its ser­vices becau­se, in its view, “con­tent pos­ted by users is eit­her exempt from pro­tec­tion or cover­ed by aut­ho­riza­ti­ons pro­vi­ded by the rele­vant rights­hol­ders”. And fur­ther: “We have been unable to veri­fy the basis for the claims you are making”.

This posi­ti­on is sur­pri­sing. For one thing, all argu­ments have been addres­sed in the legis­la­ti­ve pro­cess. For ano­ther, Meta has alre­a­dy made pay­ments for the use of press con­tent after pro­tra­c­ted dis­pu­tes and high public pres­su­re in France. The com­pa­ny agreed in Octo­ber 2021 with the publishers’ orga­ni­sa­ti­on Alli­ance de la Pres­se to make pay­ments to press publishers expli­cit­ly for rights uses in its Face­book ser­vice.

 Jean-Marie Cava­da, Pre­si­dent of the French coll­ec­ting socie­ty Socié­té des Droits Voi­sins de la Pres­se (DVP) and for­mer Vice-Chair­man of the Legal Affairs Com­mit­tee in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, said: “I am plea­sed that Face­book in France has star­ted to remu­ne­ra­te the press, regard­less of whe­ther the con­tent is uploa­ded by the rights hol­ders, the press publishers them­sel­ves or by third par­ties. Now I learn that Face­book in Ger­ma­ny has sta­ted in a com­ple­te­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry way that in Ger­ma­ny the use of con­tent under the same con­di­ti­ons as in France would not trig­ger any obli­ga­ti­on or remu­ne­ra­ti­on for publishers. This posi­ti­on is not only con­tra­dic­to­ry but also con­tra legem and con­tra­ry to the wor­ding, mea­ning and spi­rit of Artic­les 15 as well as 17 of the EU Copy­right Direc­ti­ve. Facebook’s beha­viour con­tra­dicts the legal text that we as the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment have adopted and that has been imple­men­ted in Ger­ma­ny under the same con­di­ti­ons as in France.”

Meta’s cla­im that it does not use press con­tent quite obvious­ly also con­tra­dicts Ger­man law. Accor­ding to this, Meta falls under the defi­ni­ti­on of a “ser­vice pro­vi­der” (§ 2 (1) UrhDaG). This cla­ri­fies that Meta its­elf uses pro­tec­ted con­tent, even if it is uploa­ded by users on Face­book (§ 1 (1) UrhDaG).

 Mar­kus Run­de and Chris­toph Schwennicke, Mana­ging Direc­tors of Corint Media: “The clear legal situa­ti­on is sim­ply being igno­red. The inten­ti­on is quite clear, to avo­id over­due pay­ments to press publishers. Howe­ver, it is unac­cep­ta­ble neither for the publishers as rights hol­ders nor for the sta­te, that Face­book has been eva­ding the appli­ca­ble legal sys­tem for almost a year. The Ger­man legis­la­tor crea­ted the law on the press publishers’ rights and declared it appli­ca­ble to Face­book in order to keep the free press finan­ci­al­ly via­ble and to com­pen­sa­te for the use of press con­tent that has been crea­ted in an ela­bo­ra­te and cos­t­ly man­ner, espe­ci­al­ly by mar­ket-domi­nant plat­forms. Now the law must be enforced, also with the new­ly crea­ted means of anti-trust law. We expect no more and no less than appli­ca­ti­on of the law for the press.

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