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Google strikes deal to pay French news publishers for preview snippets

Google has signed a deal with news publishers in France to pay them for content appearing as preview snippets in search results, the company announced on Thursday. The deal was signed between Google and the Alliance de la presse d’information générale (APIG), a collective of French publishers. However, the company will negotiate payments with individual publishers.

Specifics about the payment structure haven’t been made public yet, but Google said it’ll pay a publisher based on its contribution to political and general information, the daily volume of publications, and its monthly internet traffic. These individual licensing agreements will cover publishers’ neighbouring rights, and allow for participation in News Showcase, a new licensing program recently launched by Google, the company said.

News Showcase is a curated news product currently offered in Germany and Brazil, with expansion plans in more countries. Google had presented the News Showcase as a feature that would give publishers (which have partnered with Google) more control over which stories they wish to show to readers, and how to present them. Stories will appear initially in the form of story panels on the Google News app on Android, and later on iOS.

In April 2020, the French competition authority, the Authorité de la Concurrence, had ruled that Google would have to negotiate with news publishers to remunerate them for article snippets the company shows in search results. 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 had said that it would comply with the ruling.

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.

Google sings a different tune in Australia

While Google agreed to pay news publishers in France, it has been thoroughly opposed to a new set of proposed regulations in Australia which require the company to pay publishers in the country. Last year, the company scuttled its curated News Showcase feature in the country calling the proposed regulations—News Media Bargaining Code—”unworkable”.

Apart from paying news publishers, the code also requires platforms to give news companies nearly a month’s notice of any changes to its algorithms which may affect referral traffic to news sites, or those affecting rankings of paywalled news, and “substantial changes” to how news is displayed, and even advertising of news.

In fact, both Facebook and Google have expressed opposition to the draft code. Google issued an open letter, telling Australian citizens that their Search data may be at risk, and that it would hurt Google’s free services due to the company being forced to pay publishers. Facebook, meanwhile, threatened to block all news sharing on its platforms in Australia. Both companies also underplayed the importance of news content to their overall businesses.

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