The social media platform owned by Elon Musk, previously known as Twitter but now referred to as 'X,' is currently embroiled in a legal battle over copyright infringement in France. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency has initiated legal proceedings, alleging that 'X' has blatantly refused to engage in discussions regarding compensation for the use of AFP's news content on the platform.
AFP has taken a decisive step by seeking an urgent injunction from a Paris court to compel 'X' to provide vital information concerning the reuse of its content. This information is crucial for calculating the amount of remuneration owed to AFP according to France's neighboring rights legislation.
A Statement from AFP expressed concern over 'X's' refusal to cooperate, emphasizing that neighboring rights were established to ensure fair compensation for news agencies and publishers. These entities contribute valuable content to digital platforms, which then derive significant monetary value from the distribution of such content.
AFP's Commitment to Neighboring Rights
Highlighting their strong commitment to advocating for neighboring rights for the press, AFP underscored their unwavering dedication even years after the legislation's implementation. As a demonstration of this commitment, AFP has initiated legal action against 'X' to secure an urgent injunction from the Judicial Court of Paris. This legal maneuver aims to enforce compliance with the law and compel 'X' to provide the necessary information for determining AFP's rightful remuneration.
The extension of copyright law to encompass excerpts of news content shared on digital platforms was endorsed by the European Union in 2019 and subsequently integrated into French law in July of the same year. This extension encompasses various forms of content, including text, images, videos, and infographics, produced by news publishers. The coverage of news publishers' content lasts for a duration of two years following its publication.
Elon Musk's Reaction and Google's Previous Encounter
Elon Musk, in response to AFP's legal action, expressed bewilderment, suggesting that AFP is requesting payment for directing traffic to their site, where they generate advertising revenue.
Comparisons can be drawn to Google's past entanglements with France's neighboring rights legislation. Google faced an antitrust investigation and was eventually fined for not effectively negotiating payment terms with news publishers. The tech giant resolved the dispute by agreeing to a set of commitments and forming agreements to compensate publishers for content reuse.
Distinct Position of 'X' and the Law
In contrast to Google's dominant position in search services and its previous skirmish with neighboring rights legislation, 'X' faces a different landscape. The Musk-owned social media platform does not hold a significant dominance in general search services or even within the realm of social media, as several other platforms boast larger user bases.
The legal requirement for tech platforms to engage in negotiations with publishers for fair compensation extends beyond the EU. Australia and Canada have also introduced legislation compelling digital platforms to discuss remuneration with publishers. However, challenges and resistance from companies like Meta (formerly Facebook) and Google have arisen in response to these measures.
In Canada, both Meta and Google have shown opposition to the Online News Act and have even considered discontinuing news availability in the country to evade compliance. Similar actions were observed in Australia, where lobbying efforts were undertaken to amend news bargaining codes before their enactment.