Google fined €500m by French competition authority

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Google has been hit with a €500m (£427m) fine by France’s competition authority for failing to negotiate “in good faith” with news organisations over the use of their content.

The authority accused Google of not taking an order to do so seriously.

Google told the BBC the decision “ignores our efforts to reach an agreement”.

The fine is the latest skirmish in a global copyright battle between tech firms and news organisations.

Last year, the French competition authority ordered that Google must negotiate deals with news organisations to show extracts of articles in search results, news and other services.

Google was fined because, in the authority’s view, it failed to do this.

In 2019, France became the first EU country to transpose a new Digital Copyright Directive into law.

The law governed so-called “neighbouring rights” which are designed to compensate publishers and news agencies for the use of their material.

As a result, Google decided it would not show content from EU publishers in France, on services like search and news, unless publishers agreed to let them do so free of charge.

News organisations felt this was an abuse of Google’s market power, and two unions and Agence France-Presse (AFP) complained to the competition authority.

Google told the BBC: “We are very disappointed with this decision – we have acted in good faith throughout the entire process.”

It said that it is, to date, the only company to have announced agreements on so-called neighbouring rights.

It added it was about to finalise an agreement with AFP that includes a global licensing agreement and payments for press publications.

The new ruling means that within the next two months Google must come up with proposals explaining how it will recompense companies for the use of their news.

Should this fail to happen the company could face additional fines of €900,000 per day.

“When the authority decrees an obligation for a company, it must comply scrupulously,” said the competition authority’s Isabelle de Silva in a statement.

“Here, this was unfortunately not the case,” she wrote.

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