By Mathieu Pollet
(EurActiv) — Google has struck a five-year deal with Agence France-Presse that will see the tech giant pay to reuse journalistic content in what is reportedly one of the largest deals of its kind.
The agreement comes after 18 months of negotiations between the two parties amid complaints from media that tech companies use stories in search results without payment, thus decreasing advertising revenue.
“This agreement is a recognition of the value of information,” said AFP CEO Fabrice Fries in a joint statement.
France’s law, stemming from an EU directive developed “neighbouring rights” that see big tech firms enter negotiations with news publishers over licensing rights.
“We fought hard to ensure that agencies are fully eligible for neighbouring rights. The difference with a commercial partnership is that a neighbouring rights contract is intended to be sustainable,” said AFP’s CEO.
The agreement will cover AFPs content over the whole EU for the next five years, including countries that have not yet transposed the EU directive opening up neighbouring rights.
“This agreement with Agence France-Presse demonstrates our desire to find common ground with publishers and news agencies in France on the subject of neighbouring rights,” said Sébastien Missoffe, Managing Director of Google France.
Google and AFP also said they plan to launch a fact-checking and disinformation project under the scope of the deal.
A long battle
The issue of neighbouring rights has been much discussed in France since the introduction of the law of 24 July 2019.
The Intellectual Property Code states news agencies and publishers can claim payment for the re-use of their journalistic content by search engines, such as Google, or platforms, such as Facebook. The law stems from a European directive enacted in April 2019, which France was the first to transpose.
But negotiations have not always been easy, and there is still a long way to go.
On 13 July, the French Competition Authority fined Google €500 million for failing to negotiate “in good faith” with press publishers, despite a framework agreement reached a few months earlier with some French press publishers.
Facebook announced on 21 October that it had reached an agreement with the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG), which includes French titles Le Monde, Le Figaro and Libération.
“The terms we have reached will allow Facebook to apply the directive and French law while generating significant funding for the Alliance’s publishers, especially the smallest ones,” APIG president Pierre Louette has said.
A collective management body, the neighbouring rights society for the press (DVP), was created on 26 October to carry out these negotiations. It aims to unite French publishers and press agencies and speak with one voice against the digital giants. It will benefit from the expertise of the society of authors, composers, and music publishers known as Sacem.
“The creation of this collective management body is a decisive step towards the effective recognition of a fair sharing of value between press publishers and agencies and these new digital players who until now have been profiting unduly from the content produced by the press,” said its president, former MEP Jean-Marie Cavada.