Google Signs France Artists Deal to Cool Tensions From Copyright Battles

Google Inc.’s YouTube unit will pay three French artistic collection agencies for the use of their members’ works, continuing an effort to cool tensions with creative groups and regulators in France.

YouTube will compensate screenwriters, directors, playwrights, and other artists represented by the SACD, SCAM, and ADAGP agencies, the groups said in Paris today. The revenue- sharing model for the deal, which will cover works viewed in France and be retroactive to YouTube’s 2007 entry into the French market, hasn’t yet been fully determined, they said.

Google, the owner of the world’s largest search engine, is trying to build stronger relationships with regulators and copyright holders in France, where it has attracted scrutiny over its mapping, book-scanning, and advertising systems. Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt this year pledged to build a “European cultural institute” and a research and development center in Paris after meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

While the YouTube deal won’t produce large amounts of cash for artists in the short term, it re-establishes “the sacred link between the fortune of the work and the fortune of the author,” Laurent Heynemann, president of the 50,000 member SACD group, said at a Paris press conference. “The Internet is not a jungle, and an economic model is possible.”

Google came under fire from French and European regulators this year for improper collection of WiFi data by its Street View map service. After the negative attention, “Google’s management are eager to ensure they are seen to be whiter than white in everything that they do,” Sam Hart, a media analyst at Charles Stanley in London, said by phone.

More Deals

Today’s accord follows a similar deal in September with Sacem, the 100,000-member French music-rights collection agency. The Mountain View, California-based company hasn’t been able to reach a similar deal in Germany, where the GEMA rights agency this year sued Google over what it said was improper use of content on YouTube.

The video site is “going in the direction of adding more and more professional content” and needs to strike durable deals with copyright holders to do so, said Christophe Muller, YouTube’s head of partnerships for southern and eastern Europe.

Google’s book-scanning service, which Sarkozy in 2009 said could result in France being “deprived of our heritage,” reached an agreement last week with Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Livre publishing unit to allow the distribution of out-of-print French books. The deal was designed as a model for agreements with other French publishers, some of whom have sued Google over book-scanning.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Campbell in Paris at mcampbell39@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net.

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