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.