The Autorité de la concurrence has closed the related rights file. Google will have to respect commitments.
This is the end of a dispute of more than two years between the French media and Google in the thorny file of neighboring rights. The American giant will comply with a series of commitments reviewed and corrected by the Competition Authority, which had already lost a fine of 500 million euros in this case last year. The methodology developed and the associated safeguards will ensure that negotiations between Google and press publishers to calculate the amount of these rights will be fair and in good faith. “We were determined to find a solution with the press publishers. We will be able to turn the page and project ourselves into the future »declare to Figaro Sébastien Missoffe, director of Google France, who greets a “historic decision”. The group, which had challenged its fine, will withdraw its appeal procedure.
The Competition Authority’s decision settles the points of tension between the media and Google. The American group wanted to limit the negotiations to the titles of general and political information (IPG). He now undertakes to discuss with all the publishers of the press, but also of radio and television, as well as with the press agencies. He will no longer be able to jointly pay the payment of neighboring rights with the participation of a publisher in a service such as Google Showcase or Subscribe with Google. And he will have to automatically transmit a whole series of information which will allow the editor to estimate the income to which he can claim. The method of calculating neighboring rights, negotiated between Google and the press, is the same for all the players concerned. But bonuses are applied if the title is recognized IPG, and also depending on the number of press cards per editorial staff. Titles investing in journalistic quality will thus be better received. Once discussions have started, Google will have three months to make a costed proposal.
But the great novelty offered by the Competition Authority is the entry into the party of a third party: the independent agent. It is to the latter that Google will entrust data that it will refuse to communicate to publishers, such as the amount of its advertising revenue from its search engine. “Google never shared this information with anyone”recalls Benoît Cœuré, Chairman of the Authority. “This third party is important because it brings trust between the two parties”adds Sébastien Missoffe.
More than 150 agreements signed with media
The agent, who will know the amounts of all the contracts, will be able to supervise the negotiations, will ensure that Google will respect its commitments and will make regular reports to the Authority which will be able to take action in the event of breaches. “We can handle the carrot and the stick in this file”, emphasizes Benoît Cœuré. Finally, if the two parties disagree, they could turn to an arbitration tribunal which will set the amount of compensation. ” It is not in Google’s interest to go to arbitration. In the event of a blockage, he will have to find a solution at the agent stage.deciphers Mathias Pigeat, legal director of the Competition Authority.
Google has, to date, signed more than 150 media agreements. The latter have the possibility of renegotiating these contracts at one of the advances put forward by the Authority without financial penalties.
The Autorité’s decision makes it possible to emerge from the top of a long dispute, which we can only welcome
Pierre Louette, President of the Alliance of General Information Press (Apig) and of the Les Échos–Le Parisien Group
“The Autorité’s decision makes it possible to come out on top of a long dispute, which we can only welcome. The robust commitments that have been negotiated correspond to our requests and are complementary to the agreements reached by the Alliance with Google”, commented Pierre Louette, president of the Alliance de la presse d’information générale (Apig) and of the Groupe Les Échos–Le Parisien. For his part, Marc Feuillée, Managing Director of the Figaro Group, believes that it will now be necessary “consider incorporating arbitration mechanisms within the law on related rights, in order to facilitate negotiations with other platforms”. Publishers are indeed hopeful that the example of Google will serve to open discussions with giants like Apple, Twitter or LinkedIn. The Competition Authority also hopes that its decision will serve as inspiration elsewhere in Europe. The payment of related rights by the platforms indeed applies to all the countries of the Union, even if the latter are still far from having all transposed this directive.“France is the country where Google has conceded the most. This will feed the European and global debate », emphasizes Benoît Cœuré. Google has already entered into 150 neighboring rights agreements in Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands and Ireland.