1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Thursday, 18 October 2012

France to make Google pay for its News service?

Once things were easier
for news aggregators
Today Google received a good deal of attention in the press. Firstly, the stock dropped about 9% before trading was suspended, due to premature release of its quarterly earning (with profit declining 20% as total costs jumped and adversing prices continued to slide). Then, news spread (see BBC) that Google has sent a dramatic letter to several French ministerial offices, threatening to exclude French media sites from search results if France goes ahead with plans to make search engines pay for content.
Last month, following a similar initiative in Germany (see Iona's post here), leading French newspaper publishers had in fact called on Hollande's government to adopt a law to force internet search engines such as Google to pay for content. 
Guillaume Frappat, head of economic and digital affairs at SEPM (the French national magazine publishers society), said that German draft law stands as a demonstration that "there is really a problem between the content producers and the filter that is between the content and the viewers."
As pointed out on PC Advisor, SEPM is not the only organisation that wants to enhance discussion in this respect (and possibly obtain payment from Google and similar operations, too). The French union of the daily press (SPQN) is also interested, as news publishers might be hurt more than the magazine industry, explained Frappat, who added: "In general, publishers are interested in all the initiatives that put the debate back on the table ... But we don't want to break the balance between copyrights and innovation." 
Google is upset at possible French legislative initiative, which is viewed as "harmful to the Internet, Internet users and news websites that benefit from substantial traffic" sent to them by Google's search engine.
News aggregation in progress
With print advertising revenues rapidly and constantly declining in the newspaper industry everywhere (revenues are now less than half what they were in 2006), attempts to share some of the profits made by news aggregators seem unavoidable. However, the question whether Google infringes copyright by returning a search result has not been given a satisfactory answer yet.
The rulings delivered by some national courts in Europe (notably those of the Brussels Court of Appeal in Copiepresse reported on the IPKat here -, and the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in Meltwater - on which see the latest comments here and here) and the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Infopaq I (IPKat report is available here) and Infopaq II (which has been commented here), do not look particularly friendly to news aggregators. 
However, the last word has not been said yet, as copyright enthusiasts are keenly awaiting the response of the UK Supreme Court in the Meltwater saga, which will appear sometime in 2013, probably at the same time when the decision in parallel proceedings in the US is published.

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