French anti-trust authority is fining Google 500 million euros for failing to comply fully with temporary orders it had given in a controversy with some the French news publishers. The company is given two months to provide a proposal on how to pay the publishers for using their content online For any delay, Google will be forced to pay another 900 000 euro per day.
News publishers APIG, SEPM and the news agency AFP have said Google never opened talks in good faith with them about paying for using their content online.
Google said: “Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers”.
The background is that Google was ordered to negotiate with all publishers based on the EU’s new copyright directive about paying for using publishers’ content online. However, Google only agreed to pay some publishers for contributing to the company’s News Showcase and publishers left out of the agreement complained.
The authority says that negotiations about remuneration should also include news agencies which Google earlier has refused.
The authority says that Google’s behaviour is the result of a deliberate, elaborate and systematic strategy of non-compliance with injunction and appears to be the continuation of the opposition strategy of Google, put in place for several years, to oppose the principle even related rights during the discussion of the directive on related rights, then to minimize its concrete scope as much as possible.
“It thus appears that the negotiation strategy put in place by Google with regard to the negotiations conducted within the framework of the Decision was part of a more global strategy, implemented at the global level, and aimed at avoiding or limiting as much as possible payment of remuneration to publishers, to use the Showcase service in order to resolve the basic debate on the allocation of specific rights to publishers and agencies for the reproduction of press content, and, finally, to use negotiations on neighbouring rights to obtain the production of new content by press publishers, via Showcase, and subscription by the latter to the SwG service, which allows Google to collect additional income from subscriptions to press titles.”
PERIODIC PENALTY PAYMENT
The President of the Authority, Isabelle de Silva said:
“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 sanction of 500 million euros takes into account the exceptional seriousness of the breaches observed and what Google’s behaviour has led to further delay the proper application of the law on neighbouring rights, which aimed to better take into account the value of content from publishers and news agencies included on the platforms. The Authority will be extremely vigilant about the proper application of its decision, as non-execution can now lead to periodic penalty payments. ”
The European union’s updated copyright directive gives publishers the right to ask for instance big tech companies to pay for using their content in for-profit online services. Publishers have for years demanded big tech companies should, one way or the other, share their impressive advertising revenue from using publishers’ editorial content in search, news sharing etc.
France was the first European country that implemented the new copyright directive in its national legislation. The outcome of the negotiations and the French authority’s investigation of them are being watched by governments and publishers all over Europe as the result is expected to have an impact on negotiations with publishers in all EU member states and most probably will spill over also to other regions.
GERMANY AND DENMARK
German anti-trust authority recently said it is investigating if Google’s excluding some publishers from being paid for content in the same was as in France is a violation of the European copyright legislation.
EU member states must include the copyright directive in their national legislation and in for instance Denmark, a large number of publishers have announced that with the new legislation as the basis, they will open negotiations with both Google and Facebook.