Regulators versus Big Tech continues through July 2021 with Google now having been fined a huge sum of over 500 million euros. This fine was issued by the French competition regulators after Google failed to follow through with one of their rulings. Google is trying to get licenses from news publishers for its new service called News Showcase. According to Google, the service helps participating publishers share their expertise and editorial voice through an enhanced storytelling experience.
The issue started when France’s Competition Agency (Autorité de la concurrence) gave an order back in April 2020 that the company would have to negotiate “in good faith” about licensing deals with publishers and news agencies for any reuse of copyrighted content.
Google finished its talk with French publishers in January and agreed to a major copyright deal with them. According to that deal, the popular tech company would negotiate individual licenses with the members of France’s press alliance. The licenses would cover rights and access to Google’s News Showcase. However, the competition agency pointed out that the deal did not include remuneration for current users of the content covered by neighboring rights for the press.
The agency also accused Google of restricting the scope of talks with the media by refusing to include the use of press images. Thus Google was ordered to present an offer of remuneration to the publishers for the use of protected content within two months or they would risk facing fines of 900,000 euros per day. Google failed to comply and thus Tuesday’s decision came to place. According to Isabelle de Silva, president of the French agency “The sanction of 500 million euros takes into account the exceptional seriousness of the breaches observed”.
De Silva said that the initial remuneration offered by Google was almost negligible. She criticized the company for offering to pay the same amount for press content that it did for dictionary listings or weather information.
A Google spokesperson said that the company was very disappointed by the decision. They said that “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 neighboring rights”.
The spokesperson further added that “We are also about to finalize an agreement with AFP that includes a global licensing agreement, as well as the remuneration of their neighboring rights for their press publications”. The current fine might be the largest fine France’s competition agency has ever issued.
New publishers all over the world have been in talks with tech companies like Google and Facebook regarding copyright laws and policies. France introduced new EU copyright laws in a bid to ensure that news organizations are compensated fairly for the use of snippets of their content.