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Google warns senators in letter. Fierce reaction after media protest

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“We warn against hasty adoption of regulations that, while only seemingly improving the position of publishers, may prevent us from concluding licensing agreements,” writes the Polish branch of Google in a letter to senators quoted by Interia. The digital giant assesses the publishers' demands as “inappropriate” and writes about the consequences of adopting them.

The amendment to the copyright law, adopted by the Sejm, implements the EU directive on remuneration for the use of works – including articles – by search engines, social media and streaming platforms.

The regulations introduce a new concept of exclusive right, which introduces the issue of remuneration from Google, Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft (e.g. the Bing search engine) for the use of content prepared by the media.

According to the wording of the regulations voted on by MPs, the media, i.e. publishers, both small and large, are to establish the rules and the amount of remuneration with the technology giants themselves. Directly or through the intermediation of collective management organizations.

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New regulations will harm the media in Poland

Experience from other countries has shown that this is a long and difficult process, hence the amendment by the Left MP, Daria Gosek-Popiołek, which assumes some facilitation. Namely, if no agreement is reached within three months from the submission of the application to start negotiations, the parties may apply to the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection for Conducting mediation. If the mediation does not bring results within three months, the president Office of Competition and Consumer Protection could establish the terms of remuneration by his decision.

However, MPs from the Civic Coalition, Third Way and Confederation rejected the amendments. The Left, which introduced changes to the project that the publishers had called for. Now they are to return to the Senate, and support for them was declared on the X portal, formerly Twitter, by the Left senator Anna Górska, who wrote: “I declare that we will fight for free media in the Senate”.

Polish media appeal to politicians. READ MORE >>>

Copyright Act – Google's position

Google sent us its position on the Polish media protest. The company points out that the project voted on by the Sejm is in line with the provisions of Article 15 of the European Directive, which has already been implemented in 19 European countries.

“In individual EU member states that have already implemented the implementation in accordance with the Directive, we have introduced a special program for the implementation of license payments. We are ready to launch it in Poland as well and license the content of Polish publishers on the same terms as in other European Union countries. The program is already operating in 19 European countries, where 4,000 press titles already receive license fees from Google for this reason,” it was reported.

Google adds that “the arbitration that publishers are calling for is not provided for in the Directive itself“. “In the vast majority of countries (21 out of 25) that implemented the DSM Directive in accordance with its provisions, no arbitration mechanisms were introduced. The consistency of Polish law with the provisions of the Directive will allow us to license the content of Polish publishers on the same terms as in other European Union countries. However, in several countries whose implementations went beyond the Directive, unfortunately, there are ongoing court disputes (Belgium, Italy) or we were forced to withdraw services (remove descriptions of links to press texts from the search engine and withdraw the existing licensing program), which was a loss for everyone (Czech Republic),” we read.

Read more at: The difficult situation of media in Poland. “Rapidly becoming poorer”

Google warns Polish senators

According to information from Interia, the Polish branch Google also sent a letter to Polish senatorsin which the company emphasizes its “merits and contribution to the development of media”, and at the end directs a warning to politicians. As the portal explains, “most of the letter consists of assurances that “Google always fairly rewards all creators, respects applicable legal regulations and cooperates to maintain equal opportunities in the digital space”. The role of the “bad cop” is cast in the media and publishing houses.

“In last weeks, publishers, taking advantage of their privileged position in access to the media, build a false narrative about the negative role that Google and other platforms allegedly play in the media ecosystem. They threaten, among other things, with the imminent bankruptcy of Polish publishers if the legislator does not meet their demands,” we read in the letter quoted by the portal.

Google, to support its claim of unfounded claims, cites several amounts indicating its ongoing support for Polish publishers. “In 2021-2023, we paid over PLN 1 billion to the five largest Polish news publishers, which is a significant increase compared to 2018-2020, when this amount was over PLN 700 million,” writes Marta Poślad, Google's director of public policy.

The company does not mention in the letter how much profit it has generated from publishers' content. At the end of the letter, Google also issues a warning.

“We warn against hasty adoption of regulationswhich, while only seemingly improving the position of publishers, may prevent us from concluding licensing agreements, as happened, among others, in the Czech Republic, where, as a result of implementation exceeding the legal framework of the Directive, we were forced to remove short fragments of publishers' content from search results and close existing licensing programs,” the concern writes.

Google adds that “the adoption of these provisions could be considered by the European Commission as an incorrect implementation of the Directive, undermine the principle of certainty of EU law and expose Poland to unnecessary legal risks“.

The content of the letter was commented on by the Left MP Daria Gosek Popiołek, who in an interview with Interia pointed out that “Google felt it was losing its lobbyist advantage and someone who has subjugated a large part of the market.”

– Now (Google – ed.) is taking action and making a PR move: look, we pay creators, we respect the agreements in force. On top of that, soft lobbying in the form of attempts to reach senators – says the MP quoted by the portal.

Main image source: Shutterstock

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