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Google resolves French copyright dispute over online content

Alphabet unit Google has committed to resolving a copyright dispute in France over online content, the country’s antitrust authority said on Tuesday, as pressure mounts for big tech platforms to share more of their revenue with news outlets.

Google, owned by Alphabet, also dropped its appeal against a 500 million euro ($528 million) fine, the authority said. The fine was paid last year.

The decision ends the authority’s investigation into Google, which has agreed to talk with news agencies and other publishers about paying them for using their news on its platform.

Google will commit to a remuneration proposal within three months of the start of negotiations, and if no agreement can be found, the matter will be settled by a court.

The U.S. company will also ensure the negotiations will have no impact on the way the news is presented on its search pages.

The ruling comes as international pressure mounts on online platforms such as Google and Facebook to share more revenue with news outlets.

“The authority believes that the commitments made by Google have the characteristics to address the competition concerns,” France’s Autorite de la Concurrence said in its ruling.

The head of the antitrust authority, Benoit Coeure, said the ruling would be closely examined by other European countries.

It concludes a three-year-old case triggered by complaints from some of France’s biggest news organisations, including AFP.

Media outlets ‘Deprived of potential revenue stream’
News publishers had argued that the rise of Google’s ad sales online was underpinned by the exploitation of excerpts of their news content online, depriving them of a potential revenue stream at a time of a decline in print sales.

The tech giant, which has since signed deals with several of the plaintiffs, initially rejected such claims, saying the web traffic it brought via its search engine and news aggregator steered a significant number of internet users to news websites, thus allowing publishers to generate their own ad-based revenue.

AFP and several leading news organisations, including newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation, have since announced separate deals with Google, which are meant to cover this copyright law.

The terms of the deals have not been disclosed.

Sebastien Missoffe, country manager and VP for Google France, wrote in a blog post that Google had agreements with more than 150 press publications in France for “neighboring rights”.

“We will continue to work on securing more agreements with eligible French publishers and news agencies to further support journalism in France, building on many years of investment,”

Google agreed to pay $76 million over three years to a group of 121 French news publishers to end the copyright row, according to documents seen early last year by Reuters. Reuters

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