Google Ordered To Pay $600m By French Watchdog

Alphabet’s Google division has been stung by France’s competition regulator over copyright issues related to news content.

The French Competition Authority (FCA) has announced that because Google has 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 has decided to fine it 500 million euros (£427 million).

“In a decision issued today, the Autorité fines Google up to 500 million euros for having disregarded several injunctions issued in the context of its interim measures’ decision of April 2020,” it said.

Google fine

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.

“The Autorité also orders Google to present a remuneration offer for the current use of their protected content to press publishers and agencies that have referred the case to the Autorité and to provide them with the necessary information for evaluating such offer, under periodic penalty payment of up to 900,000 euros per day of delay, if Google has not done so within two months,” it warned.

Google was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying it was very disappointed with the decision but would comply.

“Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers,” the US tech company reportedly said.

A Google spokesperson added: “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.”

Ongoing issue

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 believes that Google 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, reportedly said in a statement.

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

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 last month 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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