Google appeals €500m copyright fine imposed by French watchdog

HAMBURG, GERMANY - JULY 27: Google Hamburg photographed on July 27, 2021 in Hamburg, Germany.
The French watchdog said on Wednesday that the appeal would not delay the pending financial penalty, although it could not confirm how long the appeal process would take. Photo: Getty

Google (GOOG) has appealed against a €500m (£429m, $591m) fine by France’s antitrust watchdog following a dispute with local media over paying for news content.

The US tech giant was fined for not complying to a previous order from the Competition Authority to come up with proposals on sharing the revenue they make from using publishers’ content.

“We disagree with a number of legal elements, and believe that the fine is disproportionate to our efforts to reach an agreement and comply with the new law,” Sebastien Missoffe, the head of Google France, said in a press statement.

“We continue to work hard to resolve this case and put deals in place. This includes expanding offers to 1,200 publishers, clarifying aspects of our contracts, and sharing more data as requested by the French Competition Authority.”

The French watchdog said on Wednesday that the appeal would not delay the pending financial penalty, although it could not confirm how long the appeal process would take.

A Google spokesperson added: "We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms."

Read more: Google fined €220m by French antitrust regulator

In July, the Competition Authority said Google had to come up with proposals within the next two months on how it would pay back news agencies for the use of their content.

News publisher APIG, which represents most big French print news publishers including Le Figaro, Le Monde, SEPM, and AFP, are amongst those accusing Google of failing to hold talks with them to find common ground for payment of news content online.

Under the European Union’s copyright directive, introduced in 2019, publishers are able to charge for the display of news snippets on search engine results. France was the first of the European Union’s 27 nations to adopt the bloc’s copyright directive.

Earlier this year, Reuters revealed that APIG had signed a framework agreement with Google, however, this deal has been put on hold pending the antitrust decision.

Failure to comply with the Competition Authority order means Google now faces additional fines of up to €900,000 a day.

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It comes amid increased international scrutiny on online tech platforms such as Google and Facebook (FB), to share more of the income they make from media outlets. They are already under pressure from regulators, who are concerned they are abusing their size and dominance over the market to favour themselves.

In February of this year, Facebook temporarily removed news from its platform for Australian consumers. However, days later the decision was reversed after a deal was reached with the Australian government.

The social media platform was also hit by two antitrust probes from regulators in the UK and Europe, while the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a probe into Google and Apple since it became an independent regulator in its own rights in January after Britain’s exit from the European Union.

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