Google Appeals $591m Copyright Fine From French Watchdog

Alphabet’s Google division is pushing back against a mammoth fine imposed on it by France’s competition regulator.

In July French Competition Authority (FCA) announced that because Google had allegedly failed to comply with the regulator’s orders on how to conduct talks with the country’s news publishers in a row over copyright, it decided to fine Google 500 million euros (£429 million or $591m).

And it threatened to fine Google an additional fine of up to 900,000 euros a day if it does not 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.

Copyright complaints

The Google copyright case in France has been ongoing for a while now.

The case against Google began back in 2019 after a complaint by long-term critic News Corp, which is the publisher of the Times, the Sun and Wall Street Journal.

In February this year, Google agreed to pay $76 million (£55m) to French news publishers for their content in a landmark agreement under new copyright laws.

A week later in February, News Corp struck a global news deal with Google in an extensive commercial agreement for its publications around the world.

The French regulator however believed Google had breached its temporary orders, 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 at the time.

She also said the regulator considered that Google had not acted in good faith in its negotiations with the publishers.

Therefore in July it hit Google with the 500m euros fine.

Google appeal

But Google said on Wednesday it was appealing against the fine, arguing it was “disproportionate” to Google efforts to reach an agreement.

“We disagree with a number of legal elements, and believe that the fine is disproportionate to our efforts to reach an agreement and comply with the new law,” Sebastien Missoffe, head of Google France was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“We continue to work hard to resolve this case and put deals in place,” said Missoffe. “This includes expanding offers to 1,200 publishers, clarifying aspects of our contracts, and sharing more data as requested by the French Competition Authority.”

The French antitrust body reportedly said on Wednesday that Google’s appeal, which will be ruled on by Paris’ court of appeal, would not hold up the fine, which the US tech giant must still pay.

It is not clear at the time of writing how long Google’s appeal process would take.

French fines

Google has been hit with multiple fines in France over the past few years.

In January 2019 Google was slapped with a 50 million euro (£44m) fine for breaking EU privacy laws in France.

Then in September 2019 Google agreed to pay French authorities nearly 1 billion euros (or $1.1bn) to settle a fiscal fraud probe that began four years ago.

And in June 2021 Google agreed to pay 220m euros (£189m) to settle antitrust charges from French regulators that it unfairly favoured its own tools for buying and selling adverts.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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