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Google liable for advertising tickets without rightsholder permission, Paris court rules




A court in Paris has prohibited Google from selling keywords to advertisers selling or reselling event tickets without the promoter’s permission. In France, it is illegal to market tickets without authorisation from the event organiser.

Google will have one month to execute the ruling, which will apply to all live shows taking place in France, and affect operators outside of the country selling tickets to French shows.

The action was brought by live events union PRODISS against Google France and Google Ireland after noting that on several occasions, advertisements had appeared for unauthorised offers for tickets, often at the top of Google’s search results. These adverts were for tickets on sites including viagogo.fr, stubhub.fr and rocket-ticket.com.

In the recent judgment, the court acknowledged Google’s liability for the harm that the illegal sale of tickets does to the live events industry. It prohibited Google Ireland, which operates the Google Ads service, from allowing the purchase of advertising keywords relating to the sale of tickets for shows in France, unless the purchaser can prove that they have written authorisation from the rightsholder.

Furthermore, the court found Google liable for reputational damage to live events professionals, as consumers may have been given the false impression that rightsholders benefit from the artificial increase in prices generated by these illegal activities. The court noted that Google had ‘undeniably participated with full knowledge of the facts’, affirming the active role taken by advertising platforms.

It is significant as it is an acknowledgment of the role that advertising platforms play in illegal sales: far from being viewed as passive, they must accept responsibility for their role in facilitating illegal activity.

This is particularly welcome news during such a difficult time for the live events industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to this decision, fans in France will no longer be encouraged by Google Ads to buy unauthorised tickets, and as soon as live events resume, they will be able to attend in complete confidence.

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