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France’s competition watchdog hits Google with €500 million fine, threatens more.

Google fined €500 million by French antitrust watchdog

Isabelle de Silva, president of France's competition watchdog.

Google has been hit with a €500 million fine by France’s competition watchdog for “disregarding” several previous injunctions calling on it to agree a deal with publishers to use news content. If it continues to do so, it will face further fines of €900,000 per day, the country’s Autorité de la concurrence said Tuesday.

On April 9, 2020, the French antitrust authority ordered Google to negotiate with publishers over payment terms to continue using snippets of their content in both Google News and search engine results, saying it is abusing its dominant market position. The fine comes as no deals have been reached.

Google must “present an offer of remuneration for the current uses of protected content to publishers and press agencies… under penalty of being subject to periodic penalty payments of up to €900,000 per day of delay, if Google has not done so within two months,” Autorité de la concurrence said on July 13, 2021.

Google fined: Aggressive French action follows Spain’s efforts…

Spain’s attempts to force Google to pay publishers for including their news in Google News resulted in the search and advertising behemoth shutting down the service in the country. Google says “Google News creates real value for these publications by driving people to their websites, which in turn can generate advertising revenue.

“Legislation in Spain requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not.

“This approach is not sustainable for Google News” it adds in a Q&A.

Both the French and Spanish moves follow European copyright reform in 2019 which boosted the ability of news publishers to enforce their copyright across the EU bloc. French authorities have been among the most supportive of the reforms — the most sweeping changes to copyright in over two decades.

Critics warn that the laws (which face wildly different implementation in different nation states) may result in legitimate content being blocked by automated upload filtering systems.

Google, which can appeal, says it is close to reaching a global licensing agreement with the country’s newswire Agence France Presse and said it was “disappointed” with the decision.

See also: European finance regulators demand more powers to enforce “digital operational resilience”

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