Google fined 500 million euros in French press publishers affair – POLITICO

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PARIS – The French competition authority on Tuesday granted the country’s press editors a major victory against Google.

The Competition Authority fined the US tech giant € 500 million for failing to comply with interim measures imposed last year, which required Google to negotiate “in good faith” with the newspaper industry over fees license.

“We were hoping that the negotiations would be fruitful and that the actors would play along. Google still does not seem to accept the law as it was passed, but it is not for any actor, however dominant, to rewrite the law. , the President of the Authority, Isabelle de Silva, told the press.

France is one of the few countries to have implemented EU copyright reform, which grants press publishers the right to demand remuneration when their content is posted on online platforms – the right says neighbor.

Tuesday’s decision is a blow to the US tech giant, which has tried to show that its relationship with the newspaper industry has calmed down. It could also have repercussions beyond France’s borders, as De Silva said she hoped it would provide a model for other EU countries that are currently adapting their national laws to the copyright reform of EU, and “would prevent Google, or other platforms, from reproducing this behavior. ”

The search engine giant must submit a compensation offer and provide news publishers with the information they need to evaluate the offer within two months, or face a fine of up to € 900,000 per day.

The French news industry, including the Syndicate of Magazine Press Publishers, the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG) and Agence France-Presse (AFP), had complained to the Competition Authority that Google was not negotiating licensing agreements “in good faith” after French lawmakers introduced neighboring EU law into national law.

They claim the company failed to comply with interim measures imposed by the competition authority, which forced Google to sit down with the newspaper industry to find a deal to pay for the news. Meanwhile, APIG and Google announced a deal on payment for news material in January, but the deal is reportedly only worth $ 76 million over three years.

“We are very disappointed with this decision – we have acted in good faith throughout the 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 neighboring rights agreements, “a Google spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the company was on the verge of finalizing a global deal with AFP. .

The Google Showcase problem

For years, Google has been at odds with news publishers around the world over payment for information.

In recent months, signs of relaxation seemed to appear. For example, tech giant and Murdoch-owned media conglomerate News Corp struck a three-year licensing deal in February, ending years of conflict. On Tuesday, the same day as the French Competition Authority’s decision, Google and Agence France-Presse announced that they were close to reaching a global neighboring right deal.

But Tuesday’s decision once again makes Google a law-breaking player.

The competition authority cited several reasons for claiming that the tech company did not negotiate in good faith. First, because the company has imposed on press editors the obligation to discuss within the framework of a new partnership including the topical product of Google Showcase, instead of focusing specifically on remuneration based on the current use of copyrighted content. In June last year, Google announced the launch of the global licensing program that would also help participating news organizations monetize their content online.

Overall, neighboring rights negotiations were too tied to Showcase, which flies in the face of Google’s neutrality obligations, according to the authority. (Product is under investigation in Germany.)

“Google’s strategy was to say: OK, we are going to pay the press publishers, but not on the basis of neighboring rights, and rather on the basis of our Showcase product,” said Damien Geradin, a lawyer who has represented clients versus Big Tech. companies and is the founder of Geradin Partners.

“It is Google’s overall strategy towards newspaper publishers that is rejected by the competition authority,” he added.

According to the competition authority, the tech giant has also decided to only take into account the direct revenues generated by the use of press material to assess the money that should go to newspaper publishers – while the Indirect income should also be part of the negotiations.

Google has refused to negotiate with news agencies and companies that do not publish “general and political information,” the authority added, and has not provided publishers with the information necessary to assess how much money they are making. could get.

“The fine of 500 million euros takes into account the exceptional gravity of the breaches found and the fact that Google’s behavior has resulted in a further delay in the proper application of neighboring rights legislation,” said de Silva.

Tuesday’s decision does not automatically cancel licensing deals already made between Google and news publishers, but can be used to request a renegotiation, the Authorityadded the president.

“This is the third decision that totally condemns Google, and they have to get back on track very quickly. The company must enter into a logic of conclusion [deals]- and I think this is already partly the case, ”said Pierre Louette, president of APIG.

The case is not yet fully closed, since the competition authority will assess by the end of the year whether Google has abused its dominant position vis-à-vis newspaper publishers.

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