The Californian company Google was fined more than $588 million in France for not paying for the news content, videos, and images it displays in its search engine and applications and with which the company profits, reported Daily Mail.
France’s regulator, the Competition Authority, fined the Silicon Valley giant for violating a European Union copyright regulation by using digital news media content in its search engine and apps such as Google News Showcase without compensating them accordingly.
In April 2020, the French competition authority ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with media groups after refusing to comply with a new EU law regulating digital copyright.
But in September 2020, the French news agency AFP filed a complaint with the regulator alleging that Google was unwilling to pay for the content it deploys on its search engine and apps, despite profiting substantially from them.
The fine represents the highest financial penalty imposed by the regulator on a company that fails to adhere to one of its rules.
The sanction comes amid a broad legal debate between Google and the digital media, which are increasingly dependent on their online revenues.
In addition to the multi-million-dollar fine, the Competition Authority ordered Google to find a solution or propose some measure acceptable to digital media within two months. Otherwise, it will have to pay more than $1,000 per day in fines.
A Google spokesperson told AFP: “We have acted in good faith during the entire negotiation period. This fine does not reflect the efforts put in place, nor the reality of the use of news content on our platform.”
“This decision is mainly about negotiations that took place between May and September 2020. Since then, we have continued to work with publishers and news agencies to find common ground.”
However, the Competition Authority reprimanded Google for failing to “hold specific negotiations” with media companies on related rights while negotiating the launch of its Google Showcase news service, which launched late last year.
Google News Showcase is a mobile app that displays headlines and news summaries from major local media outlets. Both the app and the search engine have ads that generate revenue for Google, which is where the dispute stems from.
The app was launched in countries such as Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, UK, Argentina, Australia, Czech Republic, and Italy.
In its defense, Google says that the app and its search engine also guide people to get into the media and have invested heavily to help them, including funding during the pandemic crisis.
Google apparently negotiated with some major media outlets in France—Le Monde and Le Figaro—which it did agree to compensate for their content, but the agency’s sanction is precisely because it did not agree openly with all the media it benefits from, as ordered in April 2020.
For example, in the UK, Google and Facebook took 80% of almost $20 billion of all digital ad revenue in 2019, while national and local media only captured 4% of that revenue.
Earlier this year in the UK, after some global pressure, Google struck a deal with more than 120 UK publications to pay them for news stories displayed on their app.
Under the deal, media outlets will be paid for summaries of news articles that appear in search results, and users will be able to access the full story on the media outlet’s website.
This is the first time Google has started paying for news content in the UK and is part of the tech giant’s commitment to invest one billion dollars in news around the world.