France Fines Google A Record $593M Over News Copyright Licensing Issues

The French government has fined Alphabet’s GOOGGOOGL $593 million for refusing to comply with an edict on negotiating licensing deals with the nation's news publishers on the use of their content.

What Happened: In April, the Autorité de la concurrence, France’s national competition regulator, ordered Google to commence negotiations “in good faith” with news entities on the use of their copyrighted content. Isabelle de Silva, the authority’s president accused the search engine giant of not acting in good faith by avoiding the issue of remuneration for current use of protected content.

“Google has imposed that the discussions necessarily take place within the framework of a new partnership, called Publisher Curated News, which included a new service called Showcase,” said de Silva. “In so doing, Google refused, as it has been asked on several occasions, to have a specific discussion on the remuneration due for the current uses of content protected by neighboring rights.”

De Silva added that Google “unjustifiably restricted the scope of the negotiations” by omitting the contents of news agencies covered by publications, including photographic images, from its negotiations. She also warned that her agency will be “extremely vigilant on the proper implementation of its decision, as non-execution may now lead to periodic penalty payments.”

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What Else Happened: Google expressed disappointment in the ruling, which is the largest fine in the regulator’s history.

“We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC. “The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms.

“To date, Google is the only company to have announced agreements on neighboring rights,” the spokesperson added. “We are also about to finalize an agreement with AFP that includes a global licensing agreement, as well as the remuneration of their neighboring rights for their press publications.”

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