French publishers: “We’re going after Apple, Amazon, Microsoft next”

04 Feb, 2013

As you probably read by now, the French publishers and Google made a deal. Google will pay for a three year, € 60 million fund for innovation in publishing. The money will be paid out to projects approved by a commission, made up by people from the publishing industry, Google and some ‘independents’.

And what comes now? Google isn’t the only internet companie which links to content. Is Yahoo! next?

Nathalie Collin (co-president of Le Nouvel Observateur and president of the Association of Political and Generalistic Press), who negotiated the deal with Google, is quite clear: the Google deal only whetted her appetite.

Nathalie Collin: “I’ve never asked myself the question about Yahoo! But a collective action against the internet: why not?”

The danger of this type of appeasement by Google has always been that it creates a precedent. And Collin is well aware of that: the € 60 million is merely the tip of the crowbar. The discussion about who gets to ‘keep’ (or take) the value that the internet creates is now wide open:

“The fact that Google agreed to a negotiation could help us start discussions with Apple, which takes a commission from the publishers to sell newspapers in its newsstand. Or Amazon, Microsoft, with whom we don’t always agree about the commercial conditions they impose. It would be great if they understood that they need the content of the press – just like Google.”

Google scored two (small) ‘wins’: it didn’t budge on the principle. It’s not paying an “ancillary copyright”. Or rather: what it’s paying is officially not termed an ‘ancillary copyright’. And the amount it has to shell out is quite low.

But Collin was obviously quite happy to let Google save face, because any form of payment would be a huge win for the French publishers. The ancillary copyright, says Collin, was the best possible scenario, but she’s okay with not getting it:

Nathalie Collin: “I have defended the idea, but it would have taken long to implement, and it’s not certain that we would have gotten more money. “

Marc Schwartz (the other negotiator for the French side): “It’s an intelligent way to redistribute the value, whatever the original question (about ancillary copyrights).”

Collin knows that this is only round one. If Google agrees to ‘redistributing value’, where will it end? This is only the beginning of a what can become a prolonged and expensive war for the internet giants in Europe.

[Les Echos][photo Alberto Alerigi, Flickr]

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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