Google must open talks with publishers in France about paying to use their content, an appeals court confirmed on Thursday, paving the way for an industry-wide deal in the country.
The ruling may reverberate outside France, as it compels Google to sit down with publishers and news agencies to find a way to remunerate them under the "neighbouring right" enshrined in revamped EU copyright rules, which allows publishers to demand a fee from online platforms for showing news snippets.
"It's a world first for such a case," France's antitrust chief Isabelle de Silva told Reuters, adding that the French court had essentially validated an earlier decision by the competition authority.
"Google's conduct amounted to saying: I'm offering you a contract under which you give me all your rights for no remuneration," de Silva said, with reference to the business relationship between news publishers and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)'s Google.
The French court's decision differs from last week's pledge by Google to pay $1 billion to publishers globally over the next three years for their news, as the French arrangement involves finding a sustainable methodology to remunerate publishers and news agencies.
Google's vehicle to remunerate news publishers, dubbed Google News Showcase, is set to launch in Germany, where it has signed up German newspapers including Der Spiegel, Stern, Die Zeit, and in Brazil with Folha de S.Paulo, Band and Infobae.
The French court's ruling comes hours after Google, the world's biggest search engine, said it was set to reach with a deal to pay French publishers for their news, the latest move to placate media groups and head off regulators siding with publishers.
"Our priority remains to reach an agreement with the French publishers and press agencies," Google said in a statement.
"We appealed to get legal clarity on some parts of the order, and we will now review the decision of the Paris court of appeal."
The ruling confirms a decision in April by France's competition authority, which ordered Google to negotiate with publishers and news agencies "the remuneration due to them for any re-use of protected content".
Under the same decision, the antitrust regulator ordered Google to open talks within three months of being asked to do so by publishers.