Google cuts a deal with Belgian publishers to end litigation

Google announced today that it made a deal with the Belgian French language publishers to end all litigation. It is important, writes managing director for Google Belgium Thierry Geerts, that Google “is not paying for including the publisher’s content” in its search results.

Further, Google and the publishers will partner on a broad range of business initiatives – which seems to mean that Google will take advertisements on the publisher’s platforms. In return, the publishers apparently agreed to use services like AdSense and AdExchange.

Only yesterday, 8 French media announced that they would start their own search engine for their content.

The full statement from Google is here:

Six years ago, Belgium’s French-language news publishers and authors sued Google. They argued that we violated their copyright by displaying snippets in Google News and linking to cached copies of their pages in Google search. Today, we’re delighted to turn the page.

We have reached an agreement that ends all litigation and represents great news for both us and the newspapers. We continue to believe that our services respect newspaper copyrights and it is important to note that we are not paying the Belgian publishers or authors to include their content in our services. From now on, Google and Belgian French-language publishers will partner on a broad range of business initiatives, in order to:

  • 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 theAdSense platform and the AdExchange marketplace;
  • Increase reader engagement - by implementing Google+ social tools, including videoHangouts, 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;

This agreement comes at an important moment, in the midst of a debate how best the newspaper industry should adapt to the new digital age. As the Economist recently reported under the enticing headline, Letting the Baby Dance, many governments including Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, UK and Canada are considering or have gone ahead with Internet-friendly copyright reforms.

Thierry Geerts also mentions the trouble that Google continues to have with German and French publishers, hightlighting the fact that Google sends four billion clicks a month to publishers around the globe:

At the same time, some European countries including Germany and France are considering an extension of copyright protection to excerpts of newspaper articles appearing in search engines’ results. The European Journalism Centre recently outlined why both Google and newspapers would be best off cooperating and The Reach Group published independent research reaching a similar conclusion.

We agree. Many win-win ways exist for Google and publishers to join forces in the new digital universe. We drive traffic to publishers – four billion clicks a month around the globe, offering publishers 100,000 business opportunities per minute. Our AdSense program pays out $7 billion a year to web publishers worldwide. Publishers remain free, with the addition of just a few lines of code, to pull out of Google web search and Google News. Publishers also remain free to determine whether to put their articles discovered through Google search behind a paywall.

Instead of continuing to argue over legal interpretations, we have agreed on the need to set aside past grievances in favour of collaboration. This is the same message we would like to send to other publishers around the world – its much more beneficial for us to work together than to fight.

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About the author

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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