Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Google Inc. and the French IPG (association of l’Information Politique et Générale) shook hands on a deal hailed by some as “historic” and by other as a “sell out”. Worth €60 million, this is what Google agreed to throw in to settle a festering dispute about how much the search company would pay to link their stories on the web.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt and France's President Francois Hollande sat side by side at the presidential palace to present a deal mediated from months by Marc Schwartz, a partner at the global audit firm Mazars.

The one-off fund was supposed to pay for innovation projects for digital publishing, while also kicking off partnerships with publishers to increase their online revenue. Something a smug President Hollande hailed as  “the first of its kind in the world" and the French news press representative “a global unifying event”. It was neither.

Not long ago, Goggle passed another agreement with Belgian publishers to settle a six-year copyright dispute with Google covering the publishers’ legal fees amounting to around €5 million, and the papers buying Google ads to promote themselves – something seen in the US as a win for Google, an easy way to pay the publishers enough to keep them happy, without directly paying any copyright fees.

France is not the only country where Google is facing opposition from publishers. In Germany, publishers are lobbying hard for a “Lex Google” legislation that news aggregators, not just Google, will have to pay for the content that they use. In Brazil newspapers have been boycotting Google News, hoping that this will turn audiences directly to their homepages.

So in the end, there may not be much in it for the publishers. In return, newspapers will drop their demands that Google pay them for every click on online versions of their stories. €60 m is a drop in the ocean for a giant with a turnover of $50 billion and profit of $10 billion. La Stampa called it “a cultural defeat” and a “Waterloo.”

What’s in it for us journalists? The creators once again were not party to negotiations and their rights swept under the Elysée carpet.

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