France’s competition regulator announced Tuesday that it has fined Google 500 million euros ($592 million) for failing to negotiate in good faith with French publishers in a dispute over payment for their information. The largest fine for non-compliance with injunctions pronounced by the French Competition Authority. For not respecting its obligation to negotiate in good faith the rights related to copyright in the field of online press (injunction n°1),
The agency has threatened to impose additional fines of 900,000 euros (about $1 million) per day if Google does not come up with proposals within two months on how it will pay publishers’ news agencies.
During a press briefing, Isabelle de Silva, president of the Authority, explained in particular that the “American group imposed on the press publishers that the discussions include a new service called Showcase. In doing so, Google has refused, as it has been asked to do on several occasions, to have a specific discussion on the remuneration due for the current uses of content protected by neighboring rights. Worse, the American company tried to exclude from the negotiations the press agencies that it covers, including images, and the press that is not considered as political and general information, for example, women’s magazines.
Google France said in a statement that it was “very disappointed” by this decision, and that the fine “does not reflect the efforts made or the reality of the use of news content on our platform. It said it was negotiating in good faith to find a solution and was close to reaching an agreement with some publishers.
The dispute is part of a larger effort by authorities in the European Union and around the world to force Google and other technology companies to compensate publishers for their content.
Last year, the French antitrust agency ordered Google to conduct negotiations with news publishers within three months and fined the company Tuesday for violating that order.
Instituted by recent European legislation, but contested by the American giant, the rights related to copyright in terms of online press should allow remuneration of press publishers for the resumption of some of their content by the major platforms. The European Union has recognized a specific right to remuneration for publishers and news agencies from 2019, which is therefore called the neighboring right of copyright. France was the first country to transpose this right into its law, so our neighbors are watching with attention this laboratory country that is trying to rebalance a balance of power that has so far turned to the advantage of Gafa.
The publishers referred the matter to the Authority again in September 2020, because they believe that Google does not fully comply with its obligations. It is on this precise point that the French Competition Authority has just decided. The institution still has to decide “by the end of the year”, according to its president Isabelle de Silva, on the substantive issue of a possible abuse of dominant position of Google in this case of neighboring rights.