AFP Takes Legal Action Against Musk’s X Over News Payment Refusal

Elon Musk’s possession, X, formerly known as Twitter, faces a legal lawsuit based on copyright law in France. The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency has initiated legal action against the social media platform, alleging a “blatant refusal” to engage in discussions regarding compensation for sharing the agency’s news content on X.

AFP is urgently seeking an injunction from a court in Paris to compel X to provide the required information about the reuse of its content. This information is crucial for calculating the amount of money owed under France’s neighboring rights legislation.

In a press release, AFP expressed its concerns about Twitter’s refusal to discuss the implementation of neighboring rights for the press. These rights were established to ensure that news agencies and publishers are remunerated by digital platforms that largely benefit from the distribution of news content.

Today, AFP announces its legal action to obtain an urgent injunction from the Judicial Court of Paris. The aim is to compel Twitter, by law, to furnish all the necessary elements required for assessing the remuneration owed to AFP under the neighboring rights legislation.

As a staunch advocate for the adoption of neighboring rights for the press, AFP remains steadfast in its commitment to the cause, even after four years since the law’s adoption. The legal proceedings against Twitter align with this unwavering commitment. The Agency will continue to employ appropriate legal measures with each relevant platform to ensure the equitable distribution of the value generated by the sharing of news content.

The extension of copyright law to encompass excerpts of news content shared on digital platforms was endorsed by the European Union in 2019 and incorporated into French law in July of the same year. However, it seems that Musk was not aware of this development, possibly preoccupied with endeavors such as building electric cars, launching rockets into space, digging large holes in the ground, and engaging in Twitter disputes.

The extension of EU copyright law applies to article extracts and most news snippets shared on digital platforms, not limited to text alone but also encompassing other content produced by news publishers, such as photographs, videos, and infographics. News publishers’ content enjoys protection for two years after its initial publication.

Responding to the news of AFP’s lawsuit, Musk commented on X, stating, “This is peculiar. They want us to pay them for traffic to their site where they make advertising revenue and we don’t!?”

Search giant Google previously faced issues with France’s neighboring rights legislation after complaints from several publishers, including AFP. The national antitrust authority intervened, resulting in Google receiving a fine of over half a billion dollars two years ago. Google resolved the dispute by offering behavioral commitments and entering multi-year agreements with AFP and other publishers to compensate them for content reuse.

In X’s case, it appears less likely to provoke intervention from the competition authority since the Musk-owned social media platform lacks a dominant position in general search services, and arguably, even in social media, where Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok boast larger user bases.

Google had attempted to bypass the law’s requirement to negotiate licensing terms with publishers by announcing that it would no longer display any news snippets from them on products like Google Search and Google News unless they granted free reuse of their content. This attempt to escape the law’s effect led to a prompt response from the competition authority, suspecting abuse of a dominant position, and issuing an interim order barring Google from stopping the display of publishers’ news and mandating negotiations about remuneration.

Beyond the EU, other regions also legally require digital platforms to engage in negotiations with publishers for news remuneration. Australia passed a news bargaining code targeting Google and Facebook in 2021. Similarly, Canada’s parliament recently passed the Online News Act, which compels tech platforms to negotiate with publishers for “fair revenue sharing” concerning their content. In both cases, Meta and Google have lobbied against the measures and threatened to end news availability rather than comply with the law. They also adopted similarly assertive tactics to lobby against the measure in Australia, advocating for amendments before the country’s confirmation of the new bargaining code.

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