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French competition authority orders Google to pay news websites for snippets

The French competition authority, the Authorité de la Concurrence, ruled yesterday that Google would have to negotiate with news publishers to remunerate them for article snippets the search giant shows in search results, the former said in a press release. The ruling was based on a suit filed by French publishers after the country’s implementation of the EU’s Copyright Directive, which specifically targeted aggregators like Google for profiting from news companies without remunerating them.

Google said in a statement that it would comply with the ruling. “Since the European copyright law came into force in France last year, we have been engaging with publishers to increase our support and investment in news,” Richard Gingras, VP of News at Google, told TechCrunch in a statement. Gingras added that those discussions would continue. We’ve reached out to Google to see if they have an additional comment.

“The Autorité found that Google’s practices […] were likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position, and caused serious and immediate harm to the press sector,” the competition authority said in its press release on the judgement. “It thus requires Google, within three months, to conduct negotiations in good faith with publishers and news agencies on the remuneration for the re-use of their protected contents. This negotiation must retroactively covers the fees due as of the entry into force of the [French implementation of the EU directive] on 24 October 2019,” it said.

In 2014, Spain had passed a law similar to the EU-wide directive that led to Google no longer offering Google News in that country. Google has pushed the argument that featuring publishers’ work only increases traffic to them and ultimately benefits news media. But News Media Alliance, a publishers’ advocacy group, said that the shutdown of Google News in Spain was not a net negative, and that there was only a temporary dip in traffic. As other countries implement the EU directive, Google is likely to face similar challenges unless it makes peace with major publishers across the continent.

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