Google hit with $593 million fine in France over news copyright row

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Alphabet’s Google has been hit with a fine of 500 million euros by France’s antitrust regulator over failure to fully comply with temporary orders issued on its ongoing copyright tussle with the country’s news publishers.

Responding to the announcement, Google expressed disappointment on the regulator’s decision. According to the company spokesperson, the fine ignores its efforts to reach an agreement.

“We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms. To date, Google is the only company to have announced agreements on neighboring rights.”

Google spokesperson said
Google fined $593 million over news copyright row in France

Last year, French news outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions intensified efforts to get Google to give them a percentage of the revenue generated from ads displayed alongside news search results.

In April 2020, France’s competition authority ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with media groups, after allegedly refusing to comply with a new EU law governing digital copyrights.

However, in September 2020, APIG, SEPM and AFP accused the tech company of failing to open talks in good faith with them to find common ground for the remuneration of news content online, under a recent European Union directive that creates so-called “neighbouring rights“.

“Neighbouring rights” aim to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.

Google fined $593 million over news copyright row in France

Ruling on the case, the regulator found Google guilty of breaching a temporary order it issued in 2020 which demanded such talks take place within three months with any news publishers that ask for them.

“When the authority decrees an obligation for a company, it must comply scrupulously, both in the spirit and letter (of the decision). Here, this was unfortunately not the case,” the antitrust body’s chief, Isabelle de Silva, said in a statement.

In summary

Google must now come up with proposals within the next two months on how it would compensate news agencies and other publishers for the use of their news.

According to the statement, failure to do that would attract additional fines of up to 900,000 euros per day.

In the meantime, Google announced in November that it had signed “some individual agreements” on copyright payments with French newspapers and magazines, including top dailies Le Monde and Le Figaro.

However, APIG, which represents (Le Figaro, Le Monde etc.) remains one of the plaintiffs. According to some sources, this is because the antitrust decision has put the agreement on hold.


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