Reed Smith Client Alerts

Key takeaways

  • French competition authority imposed another fine on Google in ongoing dispute over payments to French publishers for their news
  • Google’s €250 million fine for breaching commitments to the Authority is in part because Google trained Gemini on news content without their knowledge.
  • From a copyright perspective, the Authority’s decision is controversial because it fails to establish the applicability of French law to the alleged training of Gemini and because it appears to impose transparency requirements to Google, where EU law currently doesn’t.
  • In a world of life-changing and fast-moving technological developments, the narrative of big tech making a living on the back of content holders is gaining considerable momentum and the launch of a sector consultation by the Authority into generative AI will only accelerate it.

Autores: Sophie Goossens Natasha Tardif Judith Reboul, Célia Kuhn


On 17 April 2019, the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (EUCD) was adopted. One of its key new provisions, Article 15, addresses declining revenues in the press sector by tackling the challenges press publishers face in controlling uses of their content by various online platforms.

The new right, which is only accessible to press publishers established within the EU, grants publishers the authority to license the online usage of their press publications to information society service providers. The right, however, does not cover linking, individual words or “very short” extracts (the A15 Exceptions).

France was the first EU country to transpose Article 15. The national text (the 2019 Law) borrows from a recital of the EUCD to provide that the A15 Exceptions “cannot affect the effectiveness of the rights provided for”. The text further provides that “this effectiveness is notably affected when the use of very short extracts substitutes for the press publication itself or dispenses the reader from referring to it”. Neither what constitutes a hyperlink nor what qualifies as a ‘very short extract’ has been defined by EU or French law. Instead, these definitions are subject to interpretation by the courts.

To assist publishers’ negotiations,  the 2019 Law obliges online services to provide press publishers “with all the information regarding the use of press publications by their users, as well as all other necessary information for a transparent assessment of their remuneration” (the 2019 Law Information Requirement). This obligation, absent from the EUCD but added by France to supplement it, is central to the most recent decision of the French Competition Authority (the Authority) in the context of an ongoing dispute between Google and French publishers over the use of their news.

A battle of snippets and thumbnails

By default, most online services aggregating news show hyperlinks to third-party content using a snippet of text and a thumbnail image from the source publication. Whether the use of a brief snippet and a thumbnail image falls under or outside the scope of the A15 Exceptions has been the subject of speculation and largely hinges on whether a court would find that these uses meet the threshold of the EUCD and national law transposing the same.

At the centre of this snippet and thumbnail storm is Google, the internet giant which has long been opposed to paying for merely linking to content online. Further to the adoption of the 2019 Law, Google announced that it would not enter into negotiations with publishers, proposing instead a free licence or to accept that only bare hyperlinks – without any snippets or thumbnails – would be displayed in search results.