Earlier this week we reported that Google was threatening to block French news websites from its search engine results, in response to a demand that it pay for the content it displayed on its Google News pages.
France, alongside Germany, was reported to be drafting a law that would force Google to license the content it uses from French publishers. Google’s immediate reaction was to jump on its high horse, insisting that it actually helped to drive more traffic to France’s news sites, before stating that it would sooner drop them altogether rather than pay for any content it uses.
Now though, it looks as if Google has rather meekly backed down. Quartz reports that Eric Schmidt is set to fly into Paris in the next week for high level discussions with France’s Junior Minister for Innovation and the Digital Economy, Fleur Pellerin. According to inside sources, Pellerin has already held discussions with the US company and believes that the two parties can reach a deal, doing away with the need to establish any new law.
Should any agreement be reached, it seems almost certain that it would involve money changing hands. French publishers have complained bitterly in the past that Google is taking advertising revenues away from them, as many readers are quite satisfied to just read the headlines on Google News without actually clicking through to their sites to read the stories in full.
It’s unclear what might have prompted Google to change tack quite so suddenly, especially when considering how aggressively it had defended its position just one week ago. One can only imagine that for all of its rhetoric, the search company needs the French sites in its news listings more than they need Google.
It will be interesting to see if any other country’s news organizations decide to follow France’s lead and try to make Google pay as well. Brazil recently did so, but things didn’t turn out the same way, with Google’s staunch refusal to cough up leading to the National Association of Newspapers’ decision to sever all ties with the search engine instead.
The row mirrors a previous quarrel between Google and AFP a few years ago, which resulted in Google eventually agreeing to license the French press agency’s content in return for it dropping a $17.5 million lawsuit.