Google agrees to milestone deal with German media

Google to pay for content in Australia, France and now Germany

Google to pay German media for online content under ''milestone'' deal. photo

On Thursday, 18 November 2021, Google said that it had reached a ‘milestone’ agreement with several German media organizations to pay for the online usage of their material. The deal is Germany’s first with publishers since the country enacted legislation on so-called neighboring rights, which arose from an EU copyright directive and have been at the center of multiple disputes between the internet giants and the news media over compensation for the use of online news and other content.

The German newspapers ZeitHandelsblatt and Tagesspiegel, and weekly magazines such as SpiegelWirtschaftsWoche and Manager Magazin, among others, are party to the deal with the American tech company. “For both our partners and us, these copyright agreements represent a milestone in strengthening successful partnerships,” Google said in a blog post, adding that it was pursuing discussions with other publishers.

EU and US embroil Google in legal battles

Google and Facebook are embroiled in legal battles with Brussels and EU member states over taxation, misuse of their dominating market positions, privacy concerns, and profiting from journalistic material without sharing income. In the United States, publishers of 125 newspapers in 11 states have filed or announced suits against Google and Facebook in April 2021, claiming the tech giants have unlawfully monopolized the digital advertising market and engaged in an illegal secretive deal, nicknamed ‘Jedi Blue,’ to throttle competition. We cataloged some of these disputes in our article in April this year, Newspaper lawsuits against Google and Facebook. Apart from these lawsuits, there are several antitrust lawsuits filed by individual states against the company. 

French competition regulators fined Google €220 million in June 2020

French government competition regulators fined Google €220 million for misusing its dominance in online advertising in June 2020. Moreover, the company settled and agreed to make changes in its practices due to the investigation by the competition authorities. Hopefully, the settlement will redress some of the complaints by the news and digital publishers who in other countries have either filed cases against Google. 

“Google used its vertically integrated business model in display advertising to gain an advantage over other competitors,” said Isabelle de Silva, the president of the French competition authority, on 7 June 2020. “This is the first investigation in the world that examines the display advertising space where Google is dominant, and the first time Google has agreed to a settlement with engagements. This case will be of interest to other regulators who are looking at the online ad market and technologies.”

The settlement in France finds Google unfairly favored its tools for buying and selling online ads over rival aggregators. As stated above by the regulators, it is the first time that the company has agreed to change its practices due to an investigation.

Google, which generally communicates by its blog posts, said it would make changes to Ad Manager, the platform used by large publishers, and alter its AdX operations that auctions digital inventory. The regulator said that Ad Manager shared pricing information of rivals to give AdX an advantage over other news aggregators and auction platforms.

Google not to appeal France settlement – changes to be global

“We have agreed on a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to make use of data and use our tools with other ad technologies,” said Google, which stated at the time that it does not intend to appeal against the settlement. “We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally.”

Almost a year ago, in November 2020, Google announced its agreement with six French news publishers to pay for content. The development came after years of uncertainty for French publishers and the future of neighboring rights in Europe. Le MondeCourrier InternationalL’ObsLe FigaroLiberation, and L’Express are the first named signatories.

Google has more recently agreed to pay Agence France-Presse (AFP) for the use of its content, its first contract after being fined by the French regulator for its approach to negotiating payments with news organisations. According to Medianews4u, Google earlier this year, agreed to pay US$ 76 million ($98 million) over three years to a group of 121 French news publishers to end a more than year-long copyright dispute. 

Australian agreement is considered the benchmark

Australia enacted legislation requiring large digital companies such as Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for the news material that they create. Although the Australian model is said to be the best for news media publishers Google tends to use multiple channels or publishing models to fragment the publishing industry in any given geography or language. 

These include the use of Google Showcase in which it signs up publications to offer their curated storage for it to promote on its media channel by that name. While Google has introduced Showcase in many markets including India, Seven West Media became Australia’s first major media business to negotiate a license agreement with Google, under which the latter would pay a one-time fee for the placement of news from the outlet on its search pages. 

In India, the Indian Newspaper Society sent a letter to Google in February 2021 asking for better sharing of revenues and perhaps in the hope of preparing the ground for legal action. However, as in other countries, the news media industry could as well go to the Competition Commission of India.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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