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Content Licensing: Facebook Agrees to Pay News Media For Content in France

On Thursday, Facebook reached an agreement with a group of national and regional newspapers to pay for content shared by its users. Essentially, that deal consists of a licensing agreement between Facebook and the APIG, an association of French national and regional newspapers. The APIG includes large national outlets like Le Parisien and Ouest-France, but also represents smaller, regional outlets.
As well, other news outlets like the newspaper Le Monde have also negotiated their own, separate deals with Facebook, as have news agencies such as Agence France-Presse.
While France and the APIG claimed victory, Facebook also says it sees the agreement as a win-win for media companies and for users of its social media network.
“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,” Facebook said in a statement.
The legal battle in France has been ongoing for roughly two years, as the national government followed the lead of Australia in trying to protect the intellectual property of its local media outlets, and in particular for news media. France alleged that tech companies like Google and Facebook have stripped media companies of much of their revenue, partly by using news stories to attract readers, while at the same time dominating the advertising business that media outlets have traditionally relied upon for revenue.
To give some idea of the size of the issue for the news media, in this past year three tech companies – Google, Facebook, and Amazon – earned close to half of all the ad revenue in the United States, and globally, five tech companies brought in roughly one-quarter of all ad revenues. The situation is similarly dire for news media throughout the world. For example, a December 2020 study by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project found that Google and Facebook alone took in a shocking 80 per cent of all online advertising in Canada.

France has taken the lead in the EU in trying to win a new deal for media companies, and in 2019 it became the first EU country to pass regulations that required large tech firms to open negotiations with publishers seeking payment for use of their news content.

The head of the media group Les Echos-Le Parisien, Pierre Louette, led the negotiation on behalf of the APIG. While details of the agreement have not been released to the public, he described the outcome as positive, calling it, “The result of an outspoken and fruitful dialogue between publishers and a leading digital platform,” that will be generating significant funding” for news publishers in years to come. Louette said the impact will be felt most among the smaller publishers, who have seen their revenues crash in the face of Facebook and Google’s online ad offerings.

This is the second major victory for France and the APIG. 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. While Facebook’s ad revenue is growing faster than Google’s, the search giant still earns the highest ad revenues in the world.

These deals are also the result of several other initiatives in a small number of companies, and particularly in Australia.

Both Facebook and Google have signed deals in Australia, and those agreements with Google have formed the basis for subsequent deals in other countries, including India and now France.

In the UK, news outlets including the global news giant The Guardian have signed on to a Facebook program to license articles that appear in a dedicated news section on the social media site, but that does not go as far as the terms of the deal with APIG, which also requires payment for news articles posted by Facebook users.

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