Thanks to the Competition Authority, publishers now have a framework for negotiation with Google to assess their remuneration.
This is a big chapter in the thorny subject of neighboring rights that the Competition Authority (ADLC) closed on June 21 by accepting the commitments made by Google to conduct fair negotiations for the definition of the remuneration of publishers and press agencies in the event of the resumption of their content. In short, it was necessary to involve the ADLC and nearly three years of procedure for Google to respect the French law on neighboring rights. Among its commitments made before the Autorité, and which now become obligations in any negotiations with French publishers and press agencies, we can cite, among other measures deemed essential by the sector:
- to negotiate in good faith with press agencies and publishers who so request the remuneration due for any use of protected content on its services and according to transparent, objective and non-discriminatory criteria;
- communicate to press publishers and press agencies the information provided for a transparent assessment of the proposed remuneration;
- that the negotiations do not affect the indexing, the classification, or the presentation of the protected content, as well as the other economic relations that would exist between Google and the publishers and press agencies (the complete list is available here).
“For the first time in Europe, the commitments made by Google indeed provide a dynamic framework for negotiation and sharing of the information necessary for a transparent assessment of the remuneration of direct and indirect neighboring rights”, analyzes Benoît Cœuré, president of the Competition Authority. “The commitments contain a complete mechanism from the start of the negotiations to their conclusions, all under the supervision of an agent, whose opinions will be binding on Google. They also include a mechanism that will make it possible to find a solution in the event of blocking by the intervention of an arbitral tribunal, the costs of which will be borne by Google.” Sébastien Missoffe, CEO of Google France acknowledges this in a press release issued in the wake of the ADLC’s decision: “This is a historic decision which sets a sustainable framework for the remuneration of publishers and press agencies, and journalists. , under French law.
Recall of facts
It all started in November 2019, when the Alliance of General Information Press (Apig), the Syndicate of Magazine Press Publishers (SEPM) and Agence France Presse (AFP) seized the ADLC to challenge the practices implemented by Google on the occasion of the entry into force of the law on neighboring rights, in July of the same year. Google had then unilaterally decided to display only the content of publishers accepting the principle of free access instead of taking part in balanced negotiations with publishers and news agencies on the sharing of the value of their content on the platform. , as required by law.
“Initially, it was a procedure for abuse of a dominant position with regard to Google, the future of which is more uncertain and the process much more cumbersome. It was replaced at the end of 2021 by a procedure of commitments , more reassuring for all of us provided that the latter are satisfactory, which seems to be the case”, specifies Pierre Petillault, director general of the Alliance of the press of general information (Apig), or the Alliance as prefer the appoint their members. The organization has since reached an agreement with Google on the remuneration of the use of press publications by Google under neighboring rights, made public last March. An agreement specific to the members of the Alliance which would have been difficult to obtain without the process carried out within the ADLC, which continued in parallel.
A long process which earned Google injunctions and sanctions from the ADLC, including a fine of 500 million euros, in July 2021, in addition to the substantive proceedings, the one which was closed today. today. Google is now forced to agree to negotiate in good faith and within a satisfactory framework the remuneration for the recovery of protected content from publishers and press agencies. “These commitments represent for us a real safety net on which to rely from the summer of 2024, when we will have to renegotiate our agreements with Google”, specifies Pierre Petillault. Commitments tested by the market under the leadership of the ADLC and whose copy Google had to review four times before arriving at an acceptable version. “The Autorité’s decision makes it possible to get out of the top of a dispute of more than two and a half years, which we can only rejoice”, greets Pierre Louette, president of Apig and of the group Les Echos Le Parisian.
Doubts about the future
While the Autorité de la concurrence is unanimously hailed for its decisive role in obtaining a result deemed positive, not all market players agree on the way to envisage the future. . “These very important episodes prove that the law of July 2019 does not offer mechanisms allowing publishers to negotiate and find solutions in the event of disagreement. The ADLC’s precautionary measures have made it possible to speed up the process and obtain significant progress. All of this contributes to the emergence of a neighboring rights market which is extremely important for us. But it is above all the law which deserves to be quickly refined and improved so that we have the tools allowing us to apply its foundations and in particular consolidate the agreements already obtained”, declares Bertrand Gié, president of the Geste. “Many issues remain to be settled, particularly with regard to the many other platforms which remain liable for related rights under the law, such as Apple, Microsoft, LinkedIn or Twitter, and on which discussions have not started”, concludes -he.
Marie Hédin-Christophe, vice-president of the Syndicate of the independent online information press (Spiil), warmly welcomes the initiative – “We are very grateful that our colleagues were able to lead this battle” – but does not hide its great concern about the impact of these negotiations on his union’s trade talks with Google. “Promotions within Google, through their various commercial products, have a very significant impact on the visibility and economy of press companies that are members of Spiil. As we mandate a third-party organization to negotiate neighboring rights, we hopefully this will not negatively impact our trading discussions as we observe that Google tends to mix the two types of trading,” she explains. Marie Hédin-Christophe is also treasurer of the neighboring rights society for the press (DVP), a collective management organization dedicated to managing the neighboring rights of publishers and press agencies, created last October by the Spiil, the Geste, the SEPM, the National Federation of the specialized press (FNPS) and the French Federation of Press Agencies (FFAP).