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France fines Google $592 million over dispute with French publishers

Google app
The Google app on a smartphone.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

France’s competition regulator said Tuesday that it had fined Google 500 million euros ($592 million) for failing to negotiate in good faith with French publishers in a dispute over payments for their news content.

The agency threatened fines of another 900,000 euros (around $1 million) per day if Google doesn’t come up with proposals within two months on how it would compensate publishers’ news agencies.

Google France said in a statement that it was “very disappointed” by the decision, and that the fine “doesn’t reflect the efforts put in place or the reality of the use of news content on our platform.” It said that it was negotiating in good faith toward a solution and was on the verge of an agreement with some publishers.

The dispute is part of a larger effort by authorities in the European Union and around the world to force Google and other tech companies to compensate publishers for content.

The French antitrust agency had issued temporary orders to Google last year to hold talks within three months with news publishers, and fined the company Tuesday for breaching those orders.

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“When the authority imposes injunctions on companies, they are required to apply them scrupulously, respecting their letter and their spirit. In the present case, this was unfortunately not the case,” the watchdog’s president, Isabelle de Silva, said.

The European Union puts plans for a digital levy on hold in order to concentrate on finalizing the G-20 nations’ decision for a global corporate tax.

“Google’s negotiations with publishers and press agencies cannot be regarded as having been conducted in good faith.”

The company was forced to negotiate with French publishers after a court last year upheld an order saying such agreements were required by a 2019 EU copyright directive. France was the first of the bloc’s 27 nations to adopt the directive, which lays out a way for publishers and news companies to strike licensing deals with online platforms.

Google has been repeatedly targeted by French and European Union antitrust authorities for various business activities seen as abusing its market dominance, including a fine of 220 million euros ($268 million) that the French competition watchdog issued the company last month for abusing its “dominant position” in the online advertising business.

In Australia, Google and Facebook have signed licensing deals with news companies after the government passed a law this year requiring digital giants to help pay for news.


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