For years, European news publishing houses have fought Google, insisting the search giant should pay to license news content. It’s been a long and arduous legal battle. However, Google has caved and on Thursday, in this blog post, Google announced its new licensing program to support the news industry.
In Google’s post, it confirms it will begin paying for quality news content and that this new program will launch later in the year. To date, the search engine has signed licensing deals with publishers in Australia, Germany and Brazil and confirmed more countries would be added to that list very soon.
The details of how the program will work are yet to be released. According to Google’s post, this licensing program forms a part of “an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories.” Of course, Google has emphasized the need for high-quality content but isn’t giving away any other clues as to what we can expect.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an even greater demand for news content. Still, the economic recession has hurt the publishing industry with ad revenue at an all-time low. Some publishers have introduced paywalls that gate their content, to claw back funds through subscription services. This move from Google should significantly assist the publishing industry and lessen the financial stranglehold that’s been the downfall of many publishing houses. Google has also indicated that it will pay for users’ access to the content protected by a paywall in some cases.
It’s inarguable that this move by Google will allow surviving publishers greater reach and thereby access to a broader audience. But is it a little too late? It’s been a challenging four months that have seen numerous businesses close their doors. Interestingly, in April amidst the worst of COVID-19, France’s competition authority ordered Google to enter negotiations with French news agencies and publishing houses to pay for the content as per the EU’s digital copyright law. Of course, this formed part of the reason for Google’s sudden change in opinion on the subject.
While the search engine has always claimed support for the industry, with its existing programs such as the Google News Initiative, for a long while it wouldn’t budge in this legal stalemate. It would seem Google can now see how it also wins in this instance going forward.
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