Agence France-Presse (AFP) announced a lawsuit against X, the company formerly known as Twitter, on August 2, citing Europe’s “neighboring rights” legislation.
According to a press release, AFP is asking the courts to force X — which the press release refers to as “Twitter” throughout — to disclose data related to the number of times articles have been shared on the platform:
“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’s neighboring rights legislation was updated in 2019 to include news organizations and the works they publish. By law, social media organizations operating in the E.U. can’t legally reproduce news content without an agreement with the original publisher.
Essentially, the E.U. law seeks to enforce a system similar to copyright royalties for entertainment media. Social media organizations and other outlets that reproduce or facilitate the reproduction or sharing of copyrighted material, including news articles, would have to make payments on a per-use basis.
The law’s scope includes video, images, and audio files as well. Though it’s unclear exactly what specific media AFP is claiming was reproduced on X, the law does specify that hyperlinking, specific words, and “very short” text snippets are exempt.
This could indicate that AFP is seeking redress over shared images, videos, or text snippets which it feels exceeds the limit of “very short.”
As for X, owner Elon Musk was quick to respond to reports of the lawsuit on the app, calling it “bizarre.”
This is bizarre. They want us to pay *them* for traffic to their site where they make advertising revenue and we don’t!?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2023
This isn’t the first time AFP has tussled with big tech over the neighboring rights law. Google was forced to strike a deal over neighboring rights with the French media outlet in 2021 after a two-year legal battle.