Matthew Keegan
Aug 4, 2023

AFP sues Musk’s 'X' over its refusal to pay for news content

In a move that could set off a domino effect for like agencies, the AFP said the aim of the case is to force X to hand over data that will allow them to estimate a fair level of compensation for news shared.

AFP sues Musk’s 'X' over its refusal to pay for news content
French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), has filed a lawsuit against X (formerly Twitter), for its alleged refusal to compensate the agency for news content uploaded to the social media site.
According to AFP, the case's objective is to force X to provide data that will enable the agency to determine a reasonable level of remuneration.
“[AFP] has expressed its concerns over the clear refusal from Twitter (recently rebranded as ‘X’) to enter into discussions regarding the implementation of neighbouring rights for the press. These rights were established to enable news agencies and publishers to be remunerated by digital platforms which retain most of the monetary value generated by the distribution of news content,” the news agency wrote in a press release.
“Today, AFP announces that it has taken legal action to obtain an urgent injunction before the Judicial Court of Paris. This move is aimed at compelling Twitter, in accordance with the law, to provide all the necessary elements required for assessing the remuneration owed to AFP under the neighbouring rights legislation.”
The European Union approved the extension of copyright law to cover news content extracts that are shared on digital platforms back in 2019, and French law adopted it in July of that same year.
The eceeElon Musk, current owner of X, evidently missed the memo.
Musk responded to the news of AFP's lawsuit by posting on X: "This is weird. They want us to pay *them* for visits to their website, from which they profit from advertising while we do not.

At the point in time, it’s unclear whether the AFP lawsuit will set a precedent and trigger other news publishers to sue the site for similar copyright complaints.

However, the search engine giant Google has previously run afoul of France's neighbouring rights laws. The national antitrust authority intervened after receiving complaints from a number of publishers, including AFP, that Google was not treating news publishers fairly when negotiating payments for the reuse of their content.
Following that antitrust investigation, the competition authority fined Google more than US$500 million in 2021. In order to resolve the conflict, Google provided a list of behavioural pledges about its future negotiations with publishers, and then signed multiyear agreements with AFP and other publishers to pay them for the reuse of their content.
The EU is not the only region where digital platforms are legally required to enter talks with publishers to financially compensate them for news reuse. Australia passed a news bargaining law in 2021 that was specifically directed at Google and Facebook. The Online News Act, which was just passed by the Canadian parliament, also mandates that digital platforms negotiate "fair revenue sharing" agreements with publishers in order to control their content.
Meanwhile, earlier this week Elon Musk’s X Corp announced that it too would be filing a lawsuit, and is suing the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) over claims that since the entrepreneur seized control of the site, there has been an increase in hate speech and misinformation on Twitter.
The social network corporation said in a legal document submitted to a California court on Monday that the non-profit group had unlawfully obtained and scraped data for its studies. It alleges the CCDH's work was "cherry-picked" from posts on the site.
“It did so out of context in public reports and articles it prepared to make it appear if X is overwhelmed by harmful content, and then used that contrived narrative to call for companies to stop advertising on X,” reads the filing.
Back in July, Musk revealed that the social network company's advertising revenue has fallen by about 50%, underscoring his efforts to turn around the failing business after purchasing it for $44 billion last October. 
Since Musk's takeover of Twitter, the platform has been dogged by issues. These include accusations of a rise in hate speech and misinformation, advertisers and users abandoning the site, and a series of changes to the platform, presided over by Musk, including the recent rebrand to X, that have at times divided, but mostly disappointed existing users of the site. 
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