The Australian competition watchdog has welcomed an “important decision” by French authorities that will force Google to pay publishers for the news they use.
The landmark decision by the Paris Court of Appeal came after Google threatened to remove all French news from its search results rather than pay its makers for their work, and just weeks after Google announced plans to set its own price to reimburse publishers in selected countries, including neighbouring Germany.
The decision was also handed down as Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission was expected to make recommendations for a news bargaining code that could see Google and Facebook reimburse Australian publishers for the use of their products.
The French decision is widely being viewed as another step towards that change in Europe and around the world.
The French Competition Authority initially won its case to see Google negotiate “in good faith” with news organisations over payment for their work in April this year.
The Autorité de la Concurrence had expected negotiations to conclude within three months, until Google appealed the Judgement.
But the French appeals court ruled against Google overnight, dismissing claims it was adequately compensating news companies by sending traffic to their websites.
In a statement, Google said the company would now strive to “reach an agreement with the French publishers and press agencies”.
“We appealed to get legal clarity on some parts of the order and we will now review the decision of the Paris Court of Appeal.”
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said he had been watching the European ruling closely.
“We welcome this important decision and continue to engage with competition regulators around the world, including the French Competition Authority, on these issues,” Mr Sims said.
Mr Sims has previously said the ACCC has held discussions with its overseas counterparts on the issue of compensation for news media, but Australia had chosen a different approach than many of its peers, focusing on a lack of competition rather than breaches of copyright.
Google is still advertising its opposition to Australia’s proposed laws, and is currently running ads on social media claiming the laws would make “what was a level playing field … uneven”.
The trillion-dollar internet firm last week announced a plan to pay some publishers in Brazil and Germany for the use of their news in a new product called the Google News Showcase in the coming months, with a $1.4 billion backing.
But Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Mel Silva said the company had suspended plans to bring the product to Australia so it could assess the ACCC’s proposed law.
“As we work to understand the impacts of the news media bargaining code on partnerships and products, we have put this project on pause for now,” she said.
Google’s Australian arm reported $4.8 billion in gross revenue last year, including $4.3 billion in advertising alone.