The French competition watchdog has fined Google €500m after the search giant failed to obey an order to reach an agreement with the country’s media publishers over payment for their content.
The antitrust authority found that Google failed to strike a deal “in good faith” with the French press sector over licensing fees relating to fragments of articles displayed on its Google News service.
Google now has to provide publishers with a new remuneration offer that will be assessed by media outlets over a two-month period. Failing that, the company faces a recurring fine of €900,000 a day, the watchdog said in a statement on Tuesday.
Under the EU’s current copyright laws, French publishers have the right to ask for payment when their content is published on online platforms — an arrangement known as neighbouring rights.
French publishers have for years been pressing the country’s watchdog to secure better payment terms from Google. In 2019, groups including the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG) complained before the watchdog that Google had not negotiated with them “in good faith”.
The fine comes as EU lawmakers overseeing new digital regulation for the bloc want to force large online platforms to pay for news, mirroring a similar move in Australia.
Isabelle de Silva, the president of the French Competition Authority, said that Google had breached its requirement to give publishers a fair deal.
Google said it was “very disappointed” with the decision. “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 neighbouring rights,” the company said, adding that it was close to finalising a deal with news agency AFP.
Google also pointed to deals in place with publications such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and Libération. Google will now take into consideration the French decision and adapt its offers to publishers, the company added. Google is considering appealing the fine, according to a person familiar with the matter.
This is the second time the French authority has imposed a fine on Google for alleged anti-competitive behaviour. Last month it was fined €220m for abusing its dominant position in the online advertising sector and the company was forced to change the way it operated in France. Google did not dispute the fine and said it would implement some of the changes globally.
Google is also the subject of a fresh antitrust probe in Brussels after Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice-president in charge of competition, opened a similar case into the company’s online advertising business.