Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

As It Signs a Deal to Pay Publishers in France, Google Threatens to Pull Search From Australia

Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch:

Google has reached an agreement with an association of French publishers over how it will be pay for reuse of snippets of their content. This is a result of application of a ‘neighbouring right’ for news which was transposed into national law following a pan-EU copyright reform agreed back in 2019.

[…]

The tech giant was also keen to emphasize that French law and the EU copyright directive do not require consent for the use of links or “very short extracts”, adding that it’s paying for online use on its surfaces for publisher content that goes beyond links and very short extracts — such as a News Showcase panel curated by the publisher.

I selected paragraphs that are directly relevant to the next article, but I recommend reading the bits I trimmed out in Lomas’ piece. In a nut, after French authorities first told Google that it would have to pay for snippet use, Google removed them. But French authorities pointed out that Google can’t ride copyright violations to a dominant market position and then jettison responsibility when it is asked to comply with the law — so Google was compelled to strike an agreement.

Lomas’ article was published yesterday. Lisa Visentin and Zoe Samios, of the Sydney Morning Herald, today:

Google’s threat to cut off search to Australian users and walk away from $4 billion in revenue has sparked warnings the digital giants are not bluffing over laws designed to force them to pay for news.

[…]

The code aims to force digital platforms to pay media companies for news content, and follows a 12-month review into Google and Facebook by the competition watchdog. The legislation, which was introduced into the House of Representatives in December, comes amid a push by global governments to rein in the power of digital monopolies.

[…]

[Google’s lawyer] also revealed that news queries comprised only 1.25 per cent of all Google searches, but under intense questioning from senators, said the company was concerned the proposed Australian code would set an international precedent.

Canadian publishers are hoping for a similar scheme but I can’t imagine they will be successful. I wrote last year that these ideas are ill-advised. I was wrong about France, but the idea that — as the lawyer Hannah Marshall put it in the Herald article — web giants should “pay for the right to supply audience to the news publishers” is nonsensical. The French agreement appears to be more comprehensive than simply charging for the right to link. But should I pay TechCrunch and the Herald because I am sending you to their websites? I have not seen a good argument for that.