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Google in talks with publishers to pay for displaying news

Early-stage talks are mainly with French and other European publishers about paying licensing fees

Brussels

ALPHABET Inc's Google is in discussions with publishers about paying licensing fees to include excerpts of their articles in Google News search results.

The early-stage talks are taking place primarily with French and other European publishers, and may not lead to any agreements, a person familiar with the matter said. A deal would apply only to news products such as the Google News vertical, they added, not general Web content queries. Google sparked an outcry in France last autumn after it said it would show stripped-down French news search results that wouldn't include article previews or snippets following a new copyright law.

It led French publishers and officials, who had hoped to win compensation from platforms as part of the new law, to accuse the search giant of strong-arming them. French antitrust regulators at the time said they would investigate Google over its implementation of the rules.

News executives have been calling on Facebook Inc and Google to pay for the rights to host their articles. They argue that their journalism is what's drawing users to those platforms, while the two tech giants are capturing most of the online advertising dollars. Richard Gingras, Google's vice-president of news, said helping people find quality journalism is "important to informed democracy and helps support a sustainable news industry".

"We're talking with partners and looking at more ways to expand our ongoing work with publishers," he added.

In Europe, Google's rocky relationships with publishers have led to legal action, long European Union antitrust investigations and an EU copyright directive that allows news outlets to seek payment from internet sites that display their articles. France was the first country to implement the new rules.

In October, Facebook introduced a separate news section in its flagship app and agreed to pay some publishers US$1 million to US$3 million a year to put their articles in it.

In an earnings call recently, News Corp chief executive officer Robert Thomson mentioned Google by name, saying there are "positive signs" the search company's CEO Sundar Pichai "has a thoughtful appreciation for the profound social influence of high quality journalism". The Wall Street Journal reported the discussions earlier. BLOOMBERG