Neighboring rights: the magazine press once again seizes the Competition Authority against Google


As part of its negotiations with Google, the magazine press editors’ union believes that the American giant has not respected the injunctions issued by the competition police.

The battle between Google and the press around neighboring rights never ends. This Monday, January 10, the union of magazine press editors (SEPM) filed a new referral to the Competition Authority against the American giant for “Non-compliance with injunctions issued by the Authority”. The union which tried to negotiate with the company during the last months could only note the reiteration by Google of the non-respect of the injunctions pronounced by the Authority on April 9, 2020 then on July 12, 2021», He wrote in his press release.

Since the entry into force of the French law on neighboring rights in September 2019, which obliges digital platforms to pay press publishers for the publication and sharing of their content, the news media have launched a bitter struggle with Google. To date, only Agence France Presse (AFP) has reached a specific compensation agreement under neighboring rights with the American giant on November 17.

A first referral at the end of 2019

Over the past two years, discussions between magazine publishers and platforms have skyrocketed. At the end of 2019, the SEPM, alongside the General Information Press Alliance (Apig) and AFP, seized the Competition Authority, accusing Google “Abuse of a dominant position”. The authority then imposed in April 2020 “emergency measuresTo Google, or an obligation to negotiate remuneration with press editors. The gendarme of the competition had since continued the investigation into the merits of the case. A few months later, the editors again seized the Competition Authority, in September 2020, believing that Google was not respecting its obligations.

Finally, on July 13, the French regulator imposed a fine of 500 million euros on Google, for not having negotiated “in good faith” with press editors on the application of neighboring rights. In the same decision, the Competition Authority required the Californian giant to resume negotiations and to formulate a “Serious offer” to the various representatives of the newspaper industry, under penalty of a financial penalty of up to 900,000 euros per day. Google appealed the Authority’s decision, but settled its fine last December.

The French gendarme then gave Google a period of two months, from the launch of a new phase of negotiations at the initiative of the publishers. This deadline has been exceeded for several weeks for negotiations between the SEPM and the Mountain View firm.

New commitments from Google

The new SEPM referral will have to be examined in the light of the new commitments offered in mid-December by Google to the competition police. Indeed, as part of the investigation on the merits of the thorny file on neighboring rights, opened last year, Google had proposed on December 15 a series of eight commitments, over five years, in order to “perpetuate all the injunctions issued in recent months by the Competition Authority“. Among the most significant proposals, Google suggests that an independent agent, approved by the Authority, ensure the implementation of the commitments made. The representative may enlist, if necessary, the services of a technical, financial or intellectual property expert. Another major element: in the event of failure of negotiations with the press editors, the American giant proposes the intervention of an arbitral tribunal, such as the International Chamber of Commerce.

In parallel with its action, the SEPM has continued in recent months to set up DVP (Neighboring Press Law), the collective management body (OGC) founded with the National Federation of the Specialized Press (FNPS) and the Union of the independent online information press (Spiil), with the support of Sacem.

For its part, the Apig, which brings together four families from the French press (national, regional, departmental daily press and regional weekly press), is continuing its negotiations with Google.

SEE ALSO – Neighboring rights: should GAFA be made to pay? (09/11/2018)

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