French Com­pe­ti­ti­on Aut­ho­ri­ty deci­des against Goog­le

Goog­le under­ta­kes to agree with French press publishers on com­pen­sa­ti­on for press con­tent within three months

Press Release
Ber­lin, 2020-04-09

The French com­pe­ti­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ty (Auto­ri­té de la con­cur­rence) has accept­ed a com­plaint from French press publishers and the AFP news agen­cy today. The com­plaint was direc­ted against attempts by Goog­le to under­mi­ne the press pro­tec­tion law, which came into effect in France last year to imple­ment the new EU copy­right direc­ti­ve. The agen­cy found that Google’s prac­ti­ces are likely to be an abu­se of a domi­nant posi­ti­on and are serious­ly and direct­ly dama­ging to the press sec­tor. In order to coun­ter this dan­ger, Goog­le is obli­ged to nego­tia­te with publishers and press agen­ci­es over the remu­ne­ra­ti­on for the use of their pro­tec­ted press con­tent within three months. Past use should also be taken into account, from the ent­ry into force of the law on Octo­ber 24, 2019.

The pro­ce­du­re befo­re the com­pe­ti­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ty was initia­ted in Novem­ber 2019 by press publishers (Syn­di­cat des édi­teurs de la pres­se maga­zi­ne, l’Al­li­ance de la pres­se d ’ infor­ma­ti­on géné­ra­le) and the Agence France-Pres­se (AFP). With this rapid decis­i­on, the aut­ho­ri­ty is respon­ding to the imme­dia­te dan­ger of irrepa­ra­ble dama­ge that the appli­cants face from Google’s anti-com­pe­ti­ti­ve beha­vi­or. Fol­lo­wing the ent­ry into force of the ancil­la­ry copy­right law in France, Goog­le had uni­la­te­ral­ly deci­ded to dis­play excerp­ts from artic­les, pho­to­graphs, com­pu­ter gra­phics and vide­os about its ser­vices only to a very limi­t­ed ext­ent — unless the right­hol­ders agreed to free use by Goog­le.

A fur­ther decis­i­on by the com­pe­ti­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ty on this mat­ter has alre­a­dy been sche­du­led for autumn 2020.

VG Media sup­port­ed the com­plaint from publishers and news agen­ci­es as much as was pos­si­ble in this pro­cess, reco­g­nis­ing publishers face the same chal­lenges in Ger­ma­ny and in the EU as a who­le. The new EU copy­right direc­ti­ve means all other EU mem­ber sta­tes will also crea­te an ancil­la­ry copy­right for press publishers, which will have to be enforced against powerful digi­tal com­pa­nies like Goog­le. In the EU, a lar­ge­ly uni­fied anti­trust law appli­es, on the basis of which VG Media is alre­a­dy taking action against Goog­le for press publishers. The decis­i­on of the French com­pe­ti­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ty is the­r­e­fo­re of Euro­pean importance.

Mar­kus Run­de, Mana­ging Direc­tor of VG Media: “Today’s decis­i­on is a signi­fi­cant suc­cess for the reso­lu­te French press publishers, and owes thanks to the pro­found under­stan­ding of the rea­li­ties in the press and plat­form mar­kets and the posi­ti­ve atti­tu­de of the French govern­ment. The decis­i­on shows the way to suc­cessful­ly enforce the rights of press publishers across the Euro­pean Uni­on”.

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