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French court bans Google from selling resale ads

A French court has banned Google from selling keywords to advertisers, including ticketing resale sites Viagogo and StubHub, without permission from the promoter in France.

French live music association Prodiss, which brought the case against Google France and Google Ireland – the home of Google’s European headquarters – filed the lawsuit after noticing advertisements for tickets to shows by Rammstein, Drake and Metallica on sites including Viagogo.fr, StubHub.fr and Rocket-Ticket.com at, or near, the top of Google’s search results.

The Judicial Court of Paris found Google liable for reputational damage to live entertainment professionals, noting that it is illegal to sell tickets without authorisation from the event organiser in France. The court agreed that ticket resale adverts may give fans the false impression that rightsholders benefit from above face-value secondary-market prices.

The Tribunal judiciaire additionally declared that Google had “undeniably participated” in facilitating unlawful resale “with full knowledge of the facts”.

The court 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 rights holder.

Google will have one month to act on the ruling, which will apply to all live shows taking place in France, including ticket retailers based elsewhere but selling tickets for French shows.

It also ordered Google to pay Prodiss €40,000 in damages and an additional €20,000 under article 700 of the code of civil procedure (CPC).

The Face-Value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT), which is a pan-European anti-touting campaign group, said in statement following the news: “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.”