After Google’s $80M French Publishers’ Fund, Press Lobby Group Chief Calls For Search Giant To Pay Media In Every European Country

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A European publishers members’ group and lobby organization has called for Google to make payments to all European publishers for linking to snippets of their content. Reuters quotes Francisco Pinto Balsemao, head of the European Publishers Council, arguing for Google to make payments in every European country. The comments follow Google’s announcement last week that it had established a €60 million fund to support French publishers, following a local copyright dispute.

“Search engines get more than 90 percent of revenues from online advertising and a substantial part of these come directly or indirectly from the free access to professional news or entertainment content produced by the media,” the EPC’s Balsemao told the news agency.

“The situation is very bad for media groups (in Europe). This use is carried out without the authorization from copyright holders or without any payment in return. So, all aggregators, like Google, should pay.”

“Google’s openness to negotiate and talk looks like a good step that must now be followed in other (European) countries,” he added, presumably referencing the French settlement.

Google declined to comment on Balsemao’s comments when contacted by TechCrunch but a source close to the company said the EPC’s claim that Google gets more than 90 percent of its revenue from Internet advertising — and that a substantial portion of it comes via publisher-produced news and entertainment content — is untrue.

We’ve reached out to the EPC to clarify the extend of the financial commitment it is calling for Google to make to European publishers and will update this story with any response. Update: a spokeswoman for the EPC said Balsemao was speaking in his capacity of head of Portugal-based publisher Impresa. “EPC does not have a position. It is for each company to deal with these matters, perhaps collectively at their national level according to local dynamics,” she added.

Last Friday Google said it had created a €60 million ($80.5m) fund to help French publishers adapt their businesses to the Internet. Writing in a blog announcing the move, Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt said:

Today I announced with President Hollande of France two new initiatives to help stimulate innovation and increase revenues for French publishers. First, Google has agreed to create a €60 million Digital Publishing Innovation Fund to help support transformative digital publishing initiatives for French readers. Second, Google will deepen our partnership with French publishers to help increase their online revenues using our advertising technology.

Schmidt’s post did not directly reference copyright litigation but the fund settled the local copyright dispute in France without Google licensing snippets so was clearly aimed at terminating the license fees argument. However the agreed does involve continued cost to Google in the form of its commitment to work with publishers to help boost their online revenues using its ad technologies.

Mountain View also struck a deal with Belgian publishers over a similar copyright dispute, back in December — although it did not publicly disclose the financial value of the agreement. Google said it would be partnering with Belgian French-language publishers on “a broad range of business initiatives” to promote both their and its own services; to help increase publishers’ revenue and reader engagement; and to increase the accessibility of publishers’ content.

Here’s Google’s breakdown of that partnership:

  • Promote both the publishers’ and Google’s services - Google will advertise its services on the publishers’ media, while the publishers will optimise their use of Google’s advertising solutions, in particular AdWords to attract new readers.
  • Increase publishers’ revenue - by collaborating on making money with content, both via premium models (paywalls, subscriptions), and via advertising solutions such as the AdSense platform and the AdExchange marketplace;
  • Increase reader engagement - by implementing Google+ social tools, including video Hangouts, on news sites, and launching official YouTube channels;
  • Increase the accessibility of the publishers’ content - by collaborating on the distribution of the publishers original content on mobile platforms, in particular smartphones and tablets;

In Germany, Google is currently lobbying against a proposal to amend German copyright law to require search engines and online information aggregators to pay to license publishers’ text snippets. The German draft legislation is backed by the governing coalition — giving it a strong shot at making it onto the statute books. The draft bill is due to get its second reading soon, following an expert committee hearing last month.

It’s fair to say that Google is extremely unhappy about the proposal to enshrine copyright protection for publishers’ text snippets in law — and the German governing coalition’s apparent willingness to legislate may explain, at least in part, why Mountain View has so publicly settled its copyright dispute in France.

Speaking to TechCrunch about the German proposals last month, Google Germany’s Dr Ralf Bremer said: “We are bringing massive traffic to the publishers’ websites. We cannot see a reason why we should pay them for bringing them the readers.”