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France fines Google $593m over news content fight

Google was fined 500 million euros, or $593 million, by French competition authorities on Tuesday for failing to negotiate a “good faith” agreement with publishers to disseminate information on its platform. , a victory for media companies that have fought to make up for 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 deal with publishers to use short article blurbs in search results. The case is being watched closely as it is one of the first attempts to enforce a new European Union copyright directive designed to force internet platforms like Google and Facebook to remunerate media outlets for their content.

“When the authority imposes injunctions on companies, they are required to apply them scrupulously, respecting their letter and their spirit,” said Isabelle de Silva, president of the French Competition Office, in a press release.

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

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

Internet companies have fought a copyright law passed this year in Australia that gave publishers greater bargaining power. This led to a confrontation in which Facebook briefly removed information from its platform for users inside the country, before quickly relenting.

As policymakers crack down, Google is trying to cut deals with individual publishers. In October, the company said it would spend more than $1 billion licensing content from international news organizations. And in February, he announced a three-year deal with News Corp, which owns the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and other major news outlets.

Google, which can appeal the fine, said it was “very disappointed” with the French decision and that it continued to negotiate with 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 information works on our platforms.”

French authorities said Google imposed unfair restrictions on its dealings with publishers, including forcing them to participate in the company’s new licensing program, News Showcase. Google had struck a deal with some top French news outlets – including Le Monde, L’Obs and Le Figaro – but others have raised concerns about the process.

Google has announced that it is entering into a global licensing agreement with Agence France-Presse, one of the largest French media outlets.