Exclusive: Google deal with French publishers on hold pending antitrust decision - sources

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is pictured during the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris

By Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google has frozen a three-year deal with some French publishers as it awaits an antitrust decision that could set the tone on copyright talks for news content online in Europe, two sources close to the matter said.

Under the framework agreement signed between Google and Alliance de la presse d'information generale (APIG), a lobby group representing most major French publishers, the U.S. group had agreed in January to pay $76 million to 121 publications, according to documents previously seen by Reuters.

It is one of the highest-profile deals in the world under Google's "News Showcase" program to provide compensation for news snippets used in search results, and the first of this kind sealed in Europe.

No individual licensing agreement has been signed with Google by any APIG member since then, however, the sources said. The negotiations are de facto frozen pending the outcome of the antitrust decision, they said.

Only a few publications such as daily newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation, had already reached individual deals on their own prior to the framework agreement.

Google said in a statement it had met publishers multiple times as part of its negotiations over copyright deals.

"We're still working with publishers, the APIG and the French competition authority on our agreements in order to finalise and sign more deals," it added. APIG had no immediate comment.

It is not yet clear whether the framework agreement will be scrapped or not as a result of the forthcoming antitrust ruling in France, which is expected in the coming weeks, the sources said.

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Sarah White and Christian Lowe)

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