French Government Says Google Must Pay French News Agencies For Sending Traffic Their Way

from the local-news-concerns-demand-the-right-to-fuck-themselves dept

European publishers just can’t punish themselves enough, apparently. News agencies experiencing downturns related to their inability to take advantage of the miraculous communications platform that is the internet are turning to their governments, demanding something be done about Google and its [checks notes] insistence on sending search traffic their way.

Building off the dubious assertion of “neighbouring rights,” the French government is now demanding Google pay French newspapers for the privilege of supplying them with additional readers.

In its latest crackdown on big tech, today the French Competition Authority has ordered Google to negotiate with French news organizations within the next three months to pay to reuse excerpts of news stories. That means Google will have to pay publishers for the headlines and snippets of stories that appear in Google News and even Google searches.

Note that it’s an “order to negotiate,” rather than the imposition of a tax. This is obviously in hopes of avoiding a repeat of Google’s response to the snippet tax imposed in Spain. When the Spanish government declared local news agencies had an “inalienable right” to be paid by Google for snippets and headlines showing up in Google searches, the company shut down its news service in Spain. This resulted in news agencies asking for the thing they had just asked for to be rolled back. Losing Google’s referral traffic obviously hurt them more than Google’s previous uncompensated “use” of their headlines and content snippets.

Of course, Google still has the nuclear option available, negotiation orders notwithstanding. A negotiation can open with Google offering to shut things down completely if French news agencies aren’t happy with the traffic Google’s sending them. And it’s a lot. The French Competition Authority knows this. And it knows its demands are placing a gun to news agencies’ heads, rather than Google’s. But it’s making these demands anyway.

These practices are made possible by the dominant position that Google is likely to hold in the market of general search services. This position leads Google to bring significant traffic to the websites of publishers and news agencies. Thus, according to the data provided by the complainants relating to 32 press titles, and not disputed by Google, the search engines — and therefore Google for a large part — represent, according to the sites, between 26% and 90% of the redirected traffic to their pages. This traffic is also very important and crucial for publishers and news agencies who cannot afford to lose any share of their digital readership due to their economic difficulties.

This is the Competition Authority stating that it thinks Google shouldn’t be able to pull the plug on local news services in response to snippet taxes. This condemnation of Google’s actions in Spain comes bundled with some inadvertent transparency about the importance of Google’s search engine to news agencies — the same ones who believe it’s Google that owes them money, rather than the other way around.

So, to avoid being nuked, the Competition Authority has laid down ground rules for “negotiations” that it hopes will keep Google from saying au revoir to its French Google News service.

Google must conduct negotiations within 3 months from the request to open negotiations from a press publisher or a news agency.

Neither the indexing, nor the classification, nor the presentation of the protected content taken up by Google on its services should in particular be affected by the negotiations.

Google will have to provide the Autorité with monthly reports on how it is complying with the decision.

But it won’t really be a negotiation. The Competition Authority says there’s only one acceptable outcome.

This injunction requires that the negotiations effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google.

This is dumb and highly unlikely to result in anything that makes French news agencies happy. They may be able to wrestle some money out of the company currently sending them traffic for free, but it’s not going to turn their fortunes around. Nor is it likely to result in more traffic being sent their way.

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Comments on “French Government Says Google Must Pay French News Agencies For Sending Traffic Their Way”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'How dare you provide us traffic without giving us money too?!'

Google must conduct negotiations within 3 months from the request to open negotiations from a press publisher or a news agency.

Neither the indexing, nor the classification, nor the presentation of the protected content taken up by Google on its services should in particular be affected by the negotiations.

Google will have to provide the Autorité with monthly reports on how it is complying with the decision.

This injunction requires that the negotiations effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google.

That’s not a ‘negotiation’, that’s an ultimatum/assertion of ownership of Google by the french agency, even if the ones issuing it are too cowardly and dishonest to admit it. ‘Snippets and links will be paid for, you are not allowed to not carry snippets or links, and you will submit monthly reports showing how nicely you’ve been brought to heel if you’re stupid enough to fall for this.’

If Google has anyone intelligent running the show they will pull out the nuclear option from the outset, pulling out of the country(or at least making a public statement that they are willing to) with a message that the government has made it too problematic to continue operating there and letting the publishers burn, because if they allow that farce of a ‘negotiation’ to be used against them other countries will take note and do the same, forcing Google to start paying out for the ‘privilege’ of sending platforms traffic in any country that feels like shaking them down. Better to send a crystal clear message that trying to extort money from Google for value that it can add will end disastrously than to humor the thugs making those demands.

As an aside, ‘French Government Says Google Must Pay French New Agencies For Sending Traffic Their Way‘? I mean, I get that the current publishers will be burning their own businesses to the ground with this, but it still seems a bit premature to refer to the new agencies the company will be dealing with that replace them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:Nutters

Trying not to be too facetious, would somebody please list the governments NOT run by nutters. I presume this is the shorter list than the list of governments who are run by nutters.

In all nations, corporations, organizations the positions of those who run things are the most desirable. Thus both sensible people and nutters desire the positions, for different reasons obviously. It is primarily a difference between those who get the position and those who don’t is in the unscrupulousness, ruthlessness and guile used to get there. Note I didn’t use the word competency. We’ve all seen this in government. The poster child in corporate life is big pharma. I’ve seen this in on-line volunteer organizations also.

Therefore, who gets the job of running things; the people who will stop at nothing to get the position or those who have limits on their bad behavior?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Google should refuse negotiations altogether and effectively nuke Google News in France."

They did it in Spain. Smaller publishers suffered somewhat, but I doubt Google batted an eyelid. Since, as these people always forget, Google don’t make money directly from the news service.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Since, as these people always forget, Google don’t make money directly from the news service."

…and, as those same people also always forget, Google can withdraw from France completely, resulting only in every frenchman henceforth typing "google.uk" instead of "google.fr" for their search engine needs.

The french government could double down on it, trying to pursue their "link tax" in the rest of the EU but the logical result would simply be for google to completely remove and block every french news agency’s domain from their index as a result. I’m not sure even the EU is demented enough to open the can of worms which would be the result of governments trying to force given commercial entities to maintain a presence in nations those entities do not wish to be.

In the end it boils down to the french neo-luddite government screaming impotently in outraged hysterics while, as usual, zero fscks are given by the online environment towards the latest Red Flag Act written to hold the obsolete middleman industry above water.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
rangda (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m not someone normally to favor any large corporation but this is extortion, and then again, I don’t favor governments either.

If I were on the Google’s board my recommendation would be to go totally nuclear, immediately terminate all google services to French ip’s, delist all French sites from all of search worldwide, immediately terminate all jobs in France (if any), and tell the French government to go fuck itself.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bloof (profile) says:

Cue Google giving them the finger, blocking results from France based news sources and offering french Canadian or machine translated international results instead. It will be worse than the status quo for French journalists and will be a PR nightmare, like most European content blocks. See the GEMA blockade of music content in Germany.

Wobbler says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not a simple solution at all and I didn’t say it was. But it’s not a complete farce like these pathetic handouts to publishers either.

Plus, it’s already being worked on, with both french unilateral legislation and a heavily french EU-wide proposal in the works:

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52018PC0147&from=EN

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Oh no, I'm sure THIS attempt is legit and not a cash-grab...'

Why am I not the least bit surprised that such an attempt is being spearheaded by the same idiotic government that’s currently trying to demand Google pay for the traffic it sends

Given who is leading the charge there you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t buy for so much as a second that they are doing that in an effort at ‘fairness’ or ‘getting Google to pay ‘proper’ taxes’, as it’s pretty clear that the french government’s idea of ‘fairness’ is not even close to the definition that most would assign the word.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Oh no, I'm sure THIS attempt is legit and not a cash-grab..

To be fair, the mentioned proposal on it’s face isn’t that bad since it aims to tax income from digital services and goods in the country the value is generated. I do foresee that some unintended consequences will show up though – as always when we are talking about tax-laws spanning multiple jurisdictions.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'Oh no, I'm sure THIS attempt is legit and not a cash-gr

To be fair, the mentioned proposal on it’s face isn’t that bad since it aims to tax income from digital services and goods in the country the value is generated.

That would seem to depend largely, if not entirely, on who gets to determine what qualifies and to what extent. For example it would not surprise me in the least if the french government(for starters) tried to argue that since Google clearly gets value from using snippets/links in their services they should be paying taxes on that on top of paying for the privilege of having them in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'Oh no, I'm sure THIS attempt is legit and not a cash-gr

Why should one business be forced to pay money to another business, especially when they are already providing the valuable service of driving custom in their direction? Google is not the reason that newspapers are in trouble, but rather their own failure to adapt to changing circumstances.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'Oh no, I'm sure THIS attempt is legit and not a cas

I’m not talking about the link-tax here, I’m only referring to the proposal on how to tax digital goods and services.

There are some overlap though, Google derives revenue indirectly by driving traffic to news-sites that most likely uses google-ads – but the taxing should only be done on the revenue-stream from the ads (and related monetization of metadata).

Asking for remuneration from someone that drives traffic to your site is just pure greed (and double-dipping) from people who thinks Google is a money-piñata that owe them money.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'Oh no, I'm sure THIS attempt is legit and not a cash-gr

"To be fair, the mentioned proposal on it’s face isn’t that bad since it aims to tax income from digital services and goods in the country the value is generated."

It already is, though.

A french person visits a US-hosted blog set up by an american, and the visit means an ad is viewed on that US-hosted blog, generating revenue paid BY an american entity TO another american entity. So far every transaction here means the valid US tax is paid.
You let me know just where, in the factual run of events, the french government should get to tax a single cent?

The "mentioned proposal" is nothing other than a shameless attempt to ensure that a nation-state gets to steal money from commercial activities in other countries.

Grays Law states that any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from actual malice…and that is basically the only reason I assume the EU isn’t simply trying to shut down the internet as a whole because if anyone actually tries to implement that fermented midden heap of a proposal that’s exactly what will happen.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"It’s not a simple solution at all and I didn’t say it was. But it’s not a complete farce like these pathetic handouts to publishers either."

Actually, it is arguably a worse farce to impose taxation on earnings not earned in the country trying to tax. The french government trying to impose taxes on the ad revenues google gets from a frenchman watching an ad sevred by a US server is as nonsensical as if the french government had tried to tax the US restaurant that frenchman went to eat in on his US vacation.

The EU attempt to force google to pay taxes for operations which have never acted within the borders of any member state is just a badly veiled cash grab. Nothing else.

Or are you saying that you, setting up a blog, would have to pay taxes to the countries of every visitor who read it, even if none of those countries were where you live and have your blog hosted?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, it good further than that. Most who use Google products don’t give them money directly, it’s paid for by advertising. So advertisers pay more then the companies they represent up their prices.

But, in theory at least, the funds they pay provide for better public services so people are generally better off, at least if the funds are used responsibly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"the funds they pay provide for better public services so people are generally better off, at least if the funds are used responsibly."

… all this is true if only for the briefest of moments in time. As soon as inflation starts because profits are dropping, you realize you actually did nothing at all. Same as minimum wage. Historically speaking inflation is tied to the minimum wage through "wage push inflation". What’s worse is this inflation doesn’t know borders. Nobody really thinks of what would happen globally. Those cost increases would bleed over into other countries and for those countries that did not increase their minimum wage, they would simply just pay more for the same products. The only way raising the minimum wage or raising taxes on corporations will work as intended is if you can mandate the companies to take less profits, and provide services at a fixed price. No way our (U.S.) courts will let that happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"As soon as inflation starts because profits are dropping"

Inflation is driven by poor profits?
Interesting notion, is this supported by the economist community?

Increasing the minimum wage would have a multitude of direct affects upon the economy, inflation is not one of them. It is the business owner who drives inflation by over reacting to the mandatory wage(s) by increasing their price(s). For example, the Papa Johns guy, John H. Schnatter, stated that the advent of Obama Care would force him to increase the price of a large pizza by five cents. You ever see his mansion? Wow, five whole cents! Poor guy 🙁

If employers were to pay a living wage, the government would not have to collect as much taxation for SNAP, food stamps, rent subsidy …. all those things that people need to live but are not being provided because the full time wage does not come close to the cost of living.

And … why is it that essential employees are not being provided with the means to access essentials needed to live?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
JoeCool (profile) says:

Requirements

This injunction requires that the negotiations effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google.

And then Google can start billing the companies for every redirection sent their way. After all, if the service is not allowed to be free, google must start being paid for its services.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well,

"This injunction requires that the negotiations effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google."

This could be read two ways:

  1. proposal for (remuneration from Google).
  2. (proposal for remuneration) from Google.

It doesn’t specify who is the one who has to be paid, Google could table a proposal from remuneration from the News Agencies to Google, rather than otherwise, for providing them free traffic.

If I was Google I’d put the option 2 or just go nuke, like in Spain.

Other option is going fully apocalypse and cut out a country from their services, all of them. For a day, if they want to make a statement and fix the situation, or for a long time, if they really want to make a statement.

And it’s not even a threat, a company is completely free to decide if it wants to provide services in a country.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Wobbler says:

Re: Re:

The press release about the order makes it abundandly clear, both in the french and in the (official, by the way) english version, that the party getting paid are publishers and news agencies.

English: https://www.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/en/press-release/neighbouring-rights-autorite-has-granted-requests-urgent-interim-measures-presented

French: https://www.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/fr/communiques-de-presse/droits-voisins-lautorite-fait-droit-aux-demandes-de-mesures-conservatoires

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

" the order makes it abundandly clear,"

Yes, it is clear they do not want google sending them traffic.
Listen to the butt hurt when google actually does what is being asked of them – that is, do not link to our news without paying for the privilege. Simple really – no more link to your news – awesome!

Wait, what? You did not want that to happen? Why did you ask for it to happen?

Federico (profile) says:

Re: Re: Authority's press release

If only I could send this press release back in time to March 2019 and have someone read it aloud in the European Parliament!

Publishers have been led to accept conditions which are even more unfavourable for them after the entry into force of the law on neighbouring rights than those pre-existing

Nobody, nobody, could possibly have ever predicted this!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I have no sympathy. Zero. Any company that doesn’t want to show up in Google search results, or have a snippet shown, just has to set a flag. The news agencies want to get paid rather than pay for something which they claim is essential to their survival. (I mean, in the aggregate search results are essential for Google too, so it seems the current price of "free" is about correct once you take the monopoly power out of it.)

From the linked article:

Google may have treated in the same way, economic actors with different situations outside of any objective justification, and therefore of having implemented a discriminatory practice.

Discrimination by treating them the same! I wonder if this makes more sense in the original French.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Any company that doesn’t want to show up in Google search results, or have a snippet shown, just has to set a flag."

This has to be repeated as often as possible. They have robots.txt which Google always honours. But, these people know they really do get extra traffic from Google, so they don’t want to use it. What they want is free money, and a handy scapegoat when their failure to adapt to the modern age causes losses for their shareholders.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The entire purpose of Google News is discrimination—based on useful, legal, criteria, like whether it’s what the users like to read. Otherwise it would be nothing but a timeline of every story ever published.

Anyone alleging illegal discrimination has not been making a good case to support that.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Google as a private corporation can’t be told who to do business with so that order is dead letter. Putting a clause that negotiations should not affect news traffic or search indexing is both functionally and legally unenforceable as Google is not a French company or even based in France. They could very well do what they did in Spain and have the same result. After all in doing so they immediately get beyond the reach of the French government’s laws.

Its funny how the government’s own argument proves Google provides a indispensable service to the news industry for free. Google could offer them 10% of what the news outlets pays to Google for the traffic and cut them off for added emphasis over their previous action in Spain.

Homestly Google’s stance in this is both rock solid in a legal sense and from a business standpoint. The moment they agree to pay anyone for the privilege of indexing and sending them free traffict EVERYONE will come after them demanding the same.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Google as a private corporation can’t be told who to do business with …

I would not be too sure about that. For instance, any private corporation that plays music gets told to deal with the collection societies on the strength of music copyright. And copyright is defined by statute.

Who writes the statutes?
So…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I would not be too sure about that."

I would.

Because what we are talking about here is NOT whether google is going to sit, IN france, and try to stonewall a french court.

We’re talking about whether Google, operating from the US, is going to give a single fsck about a french government telling them they have to pay a french entity for the privilege of keeping an address registry.

When spain tried the exact same Google simply de-listed spanish news agencies, resulting in those same agencies becoming nigh-invisible online as compared to all the non-spanish news agencies. Care to guess who got hurt by this? Certainly wasn’t google.

Governments can’t control what services google offer based out of another country. They can only control whether their own citizens are able to access the services in that other country.
But to do so those governments will have to emulate China and put a censorship wall around their country.

AT BEST this is a naked – hamfisted – cash grab.
At worst it’s a running lead, along with the EU proposal on "online taxation" towards making a good case as to why national governments all need full control over the communication of their citizenry.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

RTBF, a country without a past, present, or apparently future

It appears to me that the French News Agencies are trying to exercise their right to be forgotten, but for the entire country, not just themselves. Google’s opening line should be ‘nice traffic you’ve got there, wouldn’t want anything to happen to that, so what do you have for us?’.

The nuclear option would certainly aid in the forgetting of France, and given the ‘mandate’ in the order described in the article, it seems like Google’s best move (we’re moving to Belgium, see ya), as the News Agencies won’t back down without the promise of some more money in their pockets.

Then, since it is supposed to be a negotiation, what would be the News Agencies next offer? Given France’s history, surrender is a possibility.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: RTBF, a country without a past, present, or apparently futur

It appears to me that the French News Agencies are trying to exercise their right to be forgotten, but for the entire country, not just themselves.

So they are trying to vicariously exercise other peoples (their citizen’s) right to be forgotten?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Google’s opening tactic

In the farce of a negotiation should be, “OK, so how much are you guys going to pays us for the huge amount of traffic we send your way”.

Or “Nice web traffic you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.”

Anonymous Coward says:

endgame is revenue stream

So if Google benefits by aggregating for Google News, which they do, they have an interest in cooperating. But the terms need to be fair, and it’s probably going to be a function of served ads on the partner site’s ad traffic, not a flat, per-click rate, which seems to be the intent of the legislation.

Perhaps the French gov would prefer to build a nationalized portal or aggregator of news – French gov would probably like that even better, but anything they would build is likely to be substandard or inferior to what Google would offer a user.

The problem is, once again, legislators dictating the solution.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: endgame is revenue stream

So if Google benefits by aggregating for Google News, which they do, they have an interest in cooperating. But the terms need to be fair, and it’s probably going to be a function of served ads on the partner site’s ad traffic, not a flat, per-click rate, which seems to be the intent of the legislation.

Any smart terms would realize that it’s a symbiotic relationship, where Google benefits from aggregating, while those they include snippets and links to benefit from the traffic Google sends them, and trying to charge one party for something both benefit from is rather ridiculous.

Barring smart any fair terms would involve the publishers paying Google much more than Google would be paying them, as previous attempts at this form of extortion has shown that Google can get by quite well even after removing the would-be parasites, whereas the opposite is very much not the case, making clear who’s gaining the most, and therefore should be paying the most, from the relationship.

Atkray (profile) says:

It is all in how you read it.

"This injunction requires that the negotiations effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google."

Google should follow this to the letter.

They want a proposal for remuneration (to come from Google).

Very well.

Dear France,

Google proposes that if we link to one of your articles and someone clicks the link you pay us per click .000163 Euros.

That is our proposal.

Alternatively we can leave things as they are.

Either works for us.

Hugs and kisses,

Google.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Lets negotiate:

google: we’ll give you $0.00

french news: How about $500 per article?

google: $0.00

french news: how about $1 per article?

google: $0.00

french news: how about $0.01 per article?

google: $0.00

negotations legally satisified, and come to an end.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'You need us a lot more than we need you.'

Alternatively…

Google: Just to let you know, since the relationship is no longer being treated as a symbiotic one we have decided to charge for the traffic we send your way, as we are clearly providing great benefit to you and will now insist upon being paid for it. Our starting, minimum rate will be twice whatever you demand from us, as I think we both know that you’re getting far more out of this than we are.

Now then, how much did you think would be a reasonable rate for us to pay for including snippets and/or links relating to your content in our services?

Zane (profile) says:

On the fence

I’m on the fence on this one. The idea is that Google are making money through advertising revenue, and if it is the case that they are making more revenue than the people producing journalistic content, then there is an issue. It’s all fine and well arguing that newspapers need the likes of google, but google wouldn’t be successful if people did not produce quality journalistic content in the first place. This might not be the right answer, but it’s not completely wrong either.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: On the fence

"The idea is that Google are making money through advertising revenue, and if it is the case that they are making more revenue than the people producing journalistic content, then there is an issue."

… and that issue is, what?

"google wouldn’t be successful if people did not produce quality journalistic content"

Interesting claim but I do not follow your logic. Given the depth and breadth of the Google empire, how is it that a lack of one particular type of listing would severely affect Google’s success?

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