Online only: updated 15/02/21 and 18/02/21

Google to pay papers in France - but balks in Australia

GOOGLE today (21 January) signed an agreement with the Alliance de la presse d'information générale to pay for the use it makes of snippets from French newspapers. The newspaper Le Monde expects the payments to total €25 million to €30 million per year.

This is curious. It follows a court case against Google for anti-competitive behaviour. The statement from the Association says only that the agreement is "the culmination of several months of negotiation within the framework established by the Competition Authority. It does not mention provision for a fair share to go to journalists. In

On 24 July 2019 France was the first EU member state to implement the provision of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market that requires such payments. This was passed on 17 April 2019. The French law insists that there shall be a collective agreement between journalists and photographers and the publishers setting out their fair shares. The Freelance understands that journalists' trades unions in France were not involved in negotiation of the agreement to pay, and that only on 19 January were they consulted about setting up such negotiations.

Olivier Da Lage of the Syndicat National des Journalistes observes: "Now is the time for the publishers to make up for the lost months and open without delay negotiations with the journalists' representatives on their 'fair and appropriate share' of these neighbouring rights, as stipulated in the directive as well as in the French transposing bill."

Call us suspicious, but this looks like another example of an internet giant insisting that it will pay who it chooses, how it chooses, and resist doing what the law demands.

22 January 2021

No sooner had we published this than news emerged that Google has reverted to its old tactics in Australia - but more so. It has threatened to withdraw all search services from Australia. This is its response to a proposed law compelling it to pay newspapers. In August Facebook made a similar threat against Australia's proposed "news code", which would compel Google and Facebook to join in mediated negotiations with publishers over the value of news content, if no agreement could be reached.

This follows the disclosure of Google "experiments" to hide some Australian news sites from search results. The move confirms to the satisfaction of the Freelance that this, too, was a lobbying tactic.

As regular readers will recall, Google withdrew its news search for Spain to avoid paying newspapers there. The new threat goes further. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country would not yield to "threats".

It is clear that Gootle's strategy, like that of Facebook, is that of Peter Thiel: "Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness later". More bluntly: they use law-breaking to grow large enough that they can demand the law be changed to suit them.

Thiel founded PayPal, sold it and went on to set up Palantir - and to fund one Donald Trump. Palantir is deeply embedded in US security policies: several style books seem to insist that it be prefixed with the adjective "secretive". As an aside, in December it obtained a £23 million contact to run a National Health Service data store - withot scrutiny, reports The Register. Doubtless Thiel will be seeking forgiveness one day.

15 February 2021

Australian media company Seven West Media has signed an agreement with Google for its content to be displayed in a product called News Showcase, the Guardian reports. The company declined to comment on reports it is worth more than $AU30m a year (£17 million, today).

This follows mutterings that the Bill establishing a Media Bargaining Code (full text PDF) could be delayed - though these were probably laid to rest by a Parliamentary Committee recommendation on Friday 12 February. The Bill would give designated news organisations in Australia a right to payment from internet platforms (such as Google), with an arbitration process to determine the amount if they cannot agree. Unlike the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it does not specify that journalists should receive a fair share.

As a Financial Times sub-editor put it in a standfirst, Google "worries that it may lose control of how much it has to pay for news" (paywall). Its "offer" of News Showcase deals is, the Freelance finds, yet another example of it attempting to pay what it chooses to whom it chooses and circumvent legislation. Google rolled out News Showcase in the UK on 10 February. It has agreements with Reach titles, including the Mirror, Express and Star, plus the Telegraph, Independent, Financial Times, Reuters, the Evening Standard and the New Statesman.

Meanwhile, Microsoft president Brad Smith on 11 February called on more countries to implement legislation similar to Australia's Code, saying it "will reduce the bargaining imbalance that currently favours tech gatekeepers and will help increase opportunities for independent journalism" and that "this a defining issue of our time that goes to the heart of our democratic freedoms."

18 February 2021

Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp has announced a deal with Google. The "three-year agreement also includes the development of a subscription platform, the sharing of ad revenue via Google’s ad technology services, the cultivation of audio journalism and meaningful investments in innovative video journalism by YouTube". Robert Thomson, Chief Executive of News Corp, said: "Particular thanks are certainly due to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Rod Sims and his able team, along with the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who have stood firm for their country and for journalism."

We have no word on the amount of cash involved. The deal covers outlets worldwide including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, MarketWatch, the New York Post, The Times, The Sunday Times, the Sun, The Australian, and Sky News.