November 29, 2022

Google was fined € 500 million, or $ 593 million, by French antitrust authorities on Tuesday for failing to negotiate a “good faith” deal with publishers to post news on its platform to offset a drop in ad revenue they attribute to the Silicon Valley giant.

French officials said Google ignored a 2020 order from French regulators to negotiate a licensing agreement with publishers to use short blurbs from articles in search results. The case was followed closely as it was one of the first attempts to apply a new European Union copyright directive that would force Internet platforms such as Google and Facebook to compensate news organizations for their content.

“When the agency issues injunctions against companies, they must apply them diligently and respect their letter and spirit,” said Isabelle de Silva, president of the French antitrust authority, in a statement.

Google has two months to come up with new ideas for compensating news publishers or risks further fines of up to 900,000 euros, about $ 1.065 million a day, French authorities said.

The French decision is the latest focal point in a battle between news publishers and internet platforms over the use of news content. In Europe and elsewhere, policymakers have increasingly sided with publishers, who argue that internet companies benefit from improper use of their content. Companies like Google and Facebook have argued that they are driving traffic to the news websites.

Internet companies battled a copyright law passed in Australia earlier this year that gave publishers more room to negotiate. It resulted in a showdown with Facebook momentarily removing messages from its platform for users in the country before quickly giving way.

While policymakers crack down on it, Google has tried to reach agreements with individual publishers. In October, the company announced it would be spending more than $ 1 billion to license content from international news organizations. And in February, the company announced a three-year contract with News Corp. , owner of The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, as well as other well-known news outlets.

Google, which can appeal the fine, said it was “very disappointed” with the French decision and was continuing to negotiate with the publishers. “We acted in good faith throughout the process,” Google said in a statement. “The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement and the reality of how news works on our platforms.”

The French authorities said Google had placed unfair restrictions on its negotiations with publishers, including an obligation to participate in the company’s new licensing program, News Showcase. Google had reached an agreement with a few prominent French news outlets – including Le Monde, L’Obs, and Le Figaro – but others raised concerns about the process.

Google said it is entering into a global licensing agreement with Agence France-Presse, one of France’s largest media companies.