France has hailed a victory in its long-running quest for fairer action from global tech companies after Facebook reached an agreement with a group of national and regional newspapers to pay for content shared by its users.
Facebook on Thursday announced a licensing agreement with the APIG alliance of French national and regional newspapers, which includes Le Parisien and Ouest-France, as well as smaller titles. This meant “people on Facebook will be able to continue uploading and sharing news stories freely amongst their communities, whilst also ensuring that the copyright of our publishing partners is protected”.
France had been battling for two years to protect the publishing rights and revenue of its press and news agencies against what it termed the domination of powerful tech companies who shared news content or showed news stories in web searches.
In 2019, France was the first EU country to enact a directive on the publishing rights of media companies and news agencies, called “neighbouring rights”, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content. But it has taken long negotiations to reach agreements on paying publishers for content.
No detail was given of the exact amount agreed by Facebook and the APIG.
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Pierre Louette, the head of media group Les Echos-Le Parisien, led the alliance of newspapers who negotiated as a group with Facebook. He said the agreement was “the result of an outspoken and fruitful dialogue between publishers and a leading digital platform”. He said the terms agreed would allow Facebook to implement French law “while generating significant funding” for news publishers, notably the smallest ones.
Other newspapers, such as the national daily Le Monde, had negotiated their own deals in recent months. News agencies have also negotiated separately.
After the 2019 French directive to protect publishers’ rights, a copyright spat had raged for more than a year in which French media groups sought to find common ground with international tech firms. Google had initially refused to comply, saying media groups already benefited by receiving millions of visits to their websites. News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions had complained about not receiving a cut of the millions made from ads displayed alongside news stories, particularly on Google.
But earlier this year, Google announced it had reached a draft agreement with the APIG to pay publishers for a selection of content shown in its searches.
Facebook said that, beside paying for French content, it would also launch a French news service, Facebook News, in January – a follow-up to similar services in the US and UK – to “give people a dedicated space to access content from trusted and reputable news sources”.
The agreements came after Facebook reached deals with most of Australia’s largest media companies earlier this year. Nine Entertainment, which includes the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said in its annual report it was expecting “strong growth in the short term” from its deals with Facebook and Google.
British newspapers, including the Guardian, signed up last year to a programme in which Facebook pays to license articles that appear on a dedicated news section on the social media site. Separately, in July, Guardian Australia struck a deal with Facebook to license news content.Internet Explorer Channel Network