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After a long feud Italian publishers and Google make peace on content protection and revenue sharing

by Andrea Biondi

Considering the tone of some public stances, the agreement between the Italian Publishers Association and Google was anything but predictable. In fact, in the last two or three years they didn't spare each other, but the Italian Publishers Association and the Mountain View giant have finally decided to bury the hatchet through an agreement that aims at marking a separation between the past and the future of the Italian digital publishing development.

“There have been a few years of heated discussion between us and Google,” said president of the Association Maurizio Costa in this interview with Il Sole 24 Ore-ItalyEurope24. “And on my part there has always been one firm point: the recognition of the value of content. And this is also one of the main point of the agreement.”

The agreement will last for three years, and it will undergo an annual assessment. It includes first of all a revenue sharing mechanism based on the promotion of content through Google mobile app Newsstand and the videostreaming platform YouTube.

In practice, regarding the first point, revenues coming from the sale of advertising spaces next to the publishers' content on Google Play Newsstand will be divided among the parties. As regards YouTube, publishers will be allowed to decide whether to use a program that makes it possible to host video content on their websites and on YouTube at the same time. Also in this case, revenues coming from the sale of advertising spaces will be divided.

Moreover, the agreement includes a deal to facilitate the use of data, through specific training, and the protection of online content also via the creation of a Digital Lab. Economically speaking, Google's starting investment will be of €12 million but, according to a note by Maurizio Costa, the expected gains are “around €40 million after three years.”

BIONDI: Mr Costa, more than once in the past you have defined as insufficient the agreement reached in France whereby Google would have made available €60 million in three years, through an ad hoc fund. Now Google offers €12 million and you are satisfied with it. Isn't it a contradiction?

COSTA: Not at all. We are talking about two different agreements. The one reached in France didn't recognize the value of content. It was an investment on just one aspect: technological infrastructure. On the contrary, this agreement between us and Google is an investment that will open new business scenarios for us publishers alongside with important revenue sharing opportunities. As I said, we forecast revenues around €40 million. But always starting from the recognition of content value, which is for us an absolute priority.

BIONDI: What has changed in the meanwhile? How was it possible to reach an agreement after such so much tension?

COSTA: Google seems to have developed a certain openness to dialogue, but apart from that, we both developed a stronger awareness of the mutual opportunities offered by an positive dialogue between us.

BIONDI: How many meetings did you need to define this agreement?

COSTA: We had at least a couple of years of heated discussion with Google. My point was that a formal recognition of the value of content was necessary, and in the end this has been accepted.