France calls for bold action to defend EU press

European Union – Speech by M. Franck Riester, Minister of Culture, at the Culture Council meeting

Brussels, 21 November 2019

The European cultural space is an area of creativity, diversity and pluralism. It must remain so.

At a time when increasingly powerful digital platforms are imposing new commercial models, we must be vigilant and bold.

The European Union has been able to respond by adopting an ambitious directive on copyright in the digital age. It has thus reaffirmed its desire to promote a fair, open and protective Internet. This result is the fruit of collective work. We can be proud of it.

The member states are now being called on to transpose the directive. This was done in France on 24 July 2019 for the neighbouring right for press publishers.

Following this transposition, the reaction of some stakeholders went directly counter to the European goal of a better sharing of value produced.

For example, Google announced on 25 September that it would stop using extracts from articles unless publishers gave it free authorization to do so.

For its part, Facebook expressed its intention to abide by French law. However, even before entering into negotiations with publishers, it asked them to temporarily apply the same system of free authorization.

I am afraid that when you begin your transposition efforts you may come up against the same difficulties.

It is unacceptable for an operator, however powerful, to impose its rules on sovereign states and democratically-elected institutions.

The value created by publishers and press agencies is currently being monopolized by these types of stakeholders, who reuse their content without paying them, even though it generates significant advertising revenue.

For the sake of their profile, publishers cannot allow themselves to disappear from such a crucial search engine [Google].

The situation thus reveals clear market imbalances which demand a firm and appropriate response in the European area.

In France, press publishers and agencies have lodged their complaint with the Competition Authority. It has decided to launch an inquiry into the new rules being applied by Google.

In general terms, I call on European press publishers to form a united front and rally together to provide responses and solutions to this threat. I’ve therefore accepted the invitation we’ve received to meet them early this afternoon.

The future president of the European Commission has spoken out in favour of a digital agenda that is conducive to innovation and guarantees that digital platforms are held to account.

It’s therefore essential to deploy appropriate competition tools at European level.

Moreover, it seems to me a priority at European level to establish specific regulation of “key” platforms that have become unavoidable when European citizens wish to gain access to information online.

Our swift and coordinated mobilization is the only possible response in order to guarantee European cultural sovereignty.

Thank you./.

Published on 25/11/2019

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