Google signs news content deals with Italian publishers

Google News Showcase is a global product to pay news publishers for their content online.
Google News Showcase is a global product to pay news publishers for their content online.PHOTO: REUTERS

MILAN (REUTERS) - Alphabet Inc's Google has sealed its first licence agreements in Italy with several publishers to offer access to some of their content on the US tech group's Showcase news platform.

Google News Showcase is a global product to pay news publishers for their content online and a new service that allows partnering publishers to curate content and provide limited access to paywalled stories for users.

Showcase is expected to launch in Italy in the coming weeks, a media representative for Google in Italy said.

News publishers have long fought the world's most popular internet search engine for compensation for using their content, with European media groups leading the charge.

Google said in October it planned to pay US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) to publishers globally for their news over the next three years via Showcase, which will launch first in Germany, then in Belgium, India, the Netherlands and other countries.

Google's agreements were signed with a number of Italian publishers, including RCS Mediagroup, which publishes daily Corriere della Sera as well as popular sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, the publisher of financial daily Il Sole 24 ore and Caltagirone editore, which owns Rome-based paper Il Messaggero.

No financial details were disclosed.

The accords involve 13 Italian editorial companies, giving Google Showcase users access to content from 76 national and local papers.

The U.S. tech group has sealed similar deals with other news outlets around the world, including in Germany, Brazil and in Britain.

"We are pleased to have reached this agreement which, by also regulating the issue of related rights, recognises the importance of quality information and the authority of our publications," RCS Chief Executive Urbano Cairo said in a statement.

RCS said the deal with Google also included the Spanish-language papers owned by the group - El Mundo, Marca and Expansion.

The accord could potentially pave the way for a resumption of the US company's news service in Spain, which was shut down in 2014 in response to legislation which meant it had to pay a mandatory collective licensing fee to re-publish headlines or snippets of news.

Authorities around the world have been introducing rules to require Google, Facebook and others to share revenue with publishers, including a 2019 directive from Brussels which European Union countries are meant to enact into law by June.

Both Italy and Spain still have to implement the new EU rules.

"We hope parliament will address the issue soon", Mr Fabrizio Carotti, general director at Italy's news publisher business lobby FIEG said.

"In our view, the law should give the national competition regulator the power to determine the criteria to establish how much online platforms have to pay for content in case of no agreement with publishers, helping editorial companies in their negotiations", Mr Carotti said.