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19 December 2019

French Culture Minister Calls For United Response To Tech Giants

Franck Riester, the French Minister of Culture, has called for a united response to the dominance of the tech giants and their exploitation of news media publishers’ content which he described as “neither sustainable nor fair.”

Speaking at a WAN-IFRA Board meeting, Mr Riester said the publisher’s right was designed to address this challenge but it would only be effective if Europe united behind it. France has become the first EU member state to transpose the directive.  

The News Media Association, which lobbied hard for the publisher’s right to be included in the Copyright Directive, has called for the publisher's right to be adopted into UK law as soon as possible.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has emphasised that the Government “supports the goals of the EU Copyright Directive” and that separate legislation would be required, preceded by a public consultation and a full impact assessment.

Speaking to the WAN-IFRA Board, Mr Riester emphasised the importance of news media to democratic society and listed the threats to the journalism including the use of publishers’ content by the tech giants without fair reward.

He said that he was proud that France had become the first country to transpose the directive but said the fight was “not over” because the platforms “think they can get away with it” and “escape a fair share of value.”

He added: “Let me tell you something: they are wrong. Yes, they are wrong! A company, no matter how big, cannot break the law. Google’s refusal to pay you is unacceptable. I have told their leaders that it is imperative that negotiations be opened, in accordance with the law.

“I also regret the method used by Facebook, which announced its intention to apply French law, but which changed its conditions for posting press content posted by users before even starting any negotiations with you.

Mr Riester said that French publishers and news agencies had filed a complaint with the French competition authorities which launched an investigation into the new rules applied by Google for the presentation of French press content in its search engine.

He added: “We have defended neighbouring rights at European level. We adopted it at European level. And it is at the European level that we will enforce it. Because Europe is our best protection.

“Faced with the digital giants, it is even our only effective and credible protection. In front of them, we will only be able to bear the weight if we stand together. They may not be able to offer their services in one or two countries.

“They may be able to give up a few tens of millions of users. But they cannot turn their backs on Europe. They cannot divest themselves of 700 million potential users. So yes, we will have to be united in this fight.”

Mr Riester said that the legislation could be added to if the current regime was not effective.

  • Mr Riester's speech was originally delivered in French.