French Newspaper Files Lawsuit Against Twitter for Not Paying Link Taxes

With link taxes failing in Canada, a French newspaper is suing Twitter for not paying the link taxes.

Some suggest that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Canada’s link taxes is in the process of failure. Already, Facebook has begun blocking news links on its platforms. At this point, observers are waiting for Google to follow suit, completing the failure of Bill C-18. The lesson is clear, demanding payments for links to your news websites is a recipe for getting kicked off the platforms in question.

AFP over in France, however, thinks things will be different if they demand payments for linking. Mike Masnick of Techdirt is reporting that AFP is suing Twitter for not paying news links:

Anyway, the law is ridiculous and a sham. And while French regulators were able to force Google (and Meta) to pay up eventually, now Agence France-Presse, more commonly known as AFP, has decided to sue exTwitter directly for failing to negotiate.

AFP has accused X, owned by billionaire tycoon Elon Musk, of a “clear refusal” to engage in discussions on neighboring rights.

AFP said in a statement it had lodged a case with a judge in Paris to force the platform to hand over data that would allow the French news agency to estimate a fair level of compensation.

I’m curious about the details here, because ex-Twitter doesn’t just grab snippets like, say, a Google news does. It is true that if you post a link to an article it can show a “card” but… as far as I know, the news website themselves have to set that up. So, to the extent that there are snippets of news stories from AFP on ex-Twitter, it’s because AFP enabled ex-Twitter’s social cards.

As for Elon’s “clear refusal” to negotiate, I mean, sure? He’s ignoring lots of other obligations that are actually serious, so why wouldn’t he ignore this. Frankly, he should be ignoring this, or fighting back against this nonsense (my guess is that there’s no one left at ex-Twitter who even understands the issue, and that’s why it got ignored).

I respect the fact that this is France we are talking about, but I don’t see how things will turn out any differently. Like Masnick said here, Musk is notorious for refusing to pay for, well, anything. Whether it is paying the rent for buildings, paying employees properly, paying for contract work, or paying for third party services, Musk seems to believe that he is above paying people money for services rendered. In this case, however, Musk would actually be justified for refusing to pay a link tax.

Heck, I’d expect Musk to respond to the lawsuit with a “WTF?” In fact, that’s kind of what he did:

This is bizarre. They want us to pay *them* for traffic to their site where they make advertising revenue and we don’t!?

The hilarious thing in all of this is that Musk is an idiot and even he gets it. Musk actually nailed the concept right on the head and correctly reflected the absurdity of it all.

Personally, I can only see Musk responding by blocking links to AFP and, eventually, all news sites in France. When organizations like AFP file a lawsuit for violating any “must carry” obligation, Musk is probably just going to respond by blocking France entirely. For Musk, this is only one country. Who cares? The whole point of X/Twitter is that it’s all about him in the first place. He isn’t going to miss one country with a press that is being unreasonable in the first place.

As a result, history will repeat itself yet again. Spain’s news sector suffered serious hardship after Google halted its Google News services in that country. Canada’s news sector is on the road to financial ruin already. French newspapers will suddenly find themselves with one less platform to expand their audiences. While it may not be quite as damaging, it probably won’t be an insignificant amount either.

As I’ve said many times already, unless something miraculous happens to turn things around and back in the favour of the news sector, I can only see the platforms continue to decouple themselves from the news sector as players from the news sector continue to demand that they be allowed to freeload off of the success of the platforms. Demanding payments from platforms for the privilege of giving the news sector free advertising is an absurd concept. Always has been, always will be. Sooner or later, the platforms are not going to play ball with the idea. With what’s going on in Canada, it looks like it’s a whole lot of “sooner”.

Edit: An earlier version of this article attributed the quote to Albert Einstein. As it turns out, the source attributing that quote that I used was actually wrong and he never actually said that. Thank you Gavin Lux Enjoyer pointing this out. I triple checked this and Gavin is absolutely correct. Article was corrected in response.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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