France fines Google 500 mn euros in news copyright row
France's competition regulator on Tuesday slapped Google with a 500-million-euro ($593-million) fine for failing to negotiate "in good faith" with media companies over the use of their content under EU copyright rules.
It is "the biggest ever fine" imposed by the Competition Authority for a company's failure to adhere to one of its rulings, the agency's chief Isabelle De Silva told reporters.
In a ruling published on its website, the Competition Authority also ordered the US internet giant to present media publishers with "an offer of renumeration for the current use of their copyrighted content", or risk paying additional damages of up to 900,000 euros a day.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement to AFP that the company was "very disappointed" by the decision.
"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," the company insisted.
"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."
The long-running legal battle has centred on claims that Google has been showing articles, pictures and videos produced by media groups when displaying search results without adequate compensation, despite the seismic shift of advertising revenue online.
The so-called "neighbouring rights" aim to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.
In particular, the Competition Authority rebuked Google for having failed to "have a specific discussion" with media companies about neighbouring rights while negotiating over the launch of its Google Showcase news service, which launched late last year.
The search giant counters that it encourages millions of people to click through to media sites, and it has also invested heavily in supporting media groups in other ways, including emergency funding during the Covid-19 crisis.