French Court Holds Google Liable For Advertising Tickets Without Permission
Screenshot – viagogo.fr
A Paris court prohibited Google from selling keywords to advertisers selling or reselling event tickets without the promoter’s premission.
A court in Paris, France, has prohibited Google from selling keywords to advertisers selling or reselling event tickets without the rights holders – usually the promoter’s – permission.
According to article 313-6-2 of the French Criminal Code, it is a criminal offense to sell tickets for shows without the producer’s authorization, a fact that French live events union PRODISS had been pointing out to Google France and Google Ireland, which runs Google’s advertising agency AdWords, on several occasions.
These adverts were for tickets on sites including viagogo.fr, stubhub.fr and rocket-ticket.com. The latter website was down at press time. Without having obtained the event promoter’s authorization, these websites used Google AdWords to appear on top of ticket searches.
After Google failed to put and end to its practices of selling ad space to unauthorized resellers, PRODISS sued both companies in 2019.
According to PRODISS, the court held Google Ireland liable for developing a parallel market “particularly harmful to producers and organisers” of shows.
Furthermore, the court found Google liable for reputational damage to live events professionals, as consumers may have been falsely led to believe that rights holders benefit from the artificial increase in prices generated by the placement of tickets on the above-mentioned sites.
The court, in its first instance, noted that Google had “undeniably participated with full knowledge of the facts,” and ruled that the internet giant cannot sell ad space to ticket resellers that cannot prove they have written authorization from the promoter.
The European Alliance against for-profit ticket resale FEAT welcomed the court ruling as it affirmed “the active role taken by advertising platforms” in the for-profit resale process. “Far from being viewed as passive, they must accept responsibility for their role in facilitating illegal activity,” the FEAT Alliance states.
It believes this ruling will prevent fans from buying unauthorized tickets once live events resume, as they won’t be encouraged by Google Ads to buy from for-profit resellers any longer.
Google and ticketing is developing into an endless saga. Back in 2017, after mounting pressure from live events professionals in the UK, the internet giant introduced requirements for ticket resellers, if they wanted to advertise through Google AdWords.
Amongst other requirements, Google demanded that ticket resellers disclose on their respective websites that they are indeed a secondary marketplace and not the primary point of sale.
The move was welcomed by many working in the UK ticketing sector, however, it soon emerged that Google was taking a rather lackluster approach to enforcing the requirements it had set.
It remains to be seen to what extent the company will feel obliged to implement the Paris court decision. Pollstar reached out to PRODISS for further comment, and received the following statement:
“PRODISS welcomes this decision, which is useful for the defence of the interests of both consumers and artists and producers of live shows. Thanks to this decision, spectators will no longer be directed to unauthorised sites by clicking on illegal advertising, and will be able, as soon as the shows actually resume, to attend in complete confidence to live shows.”