Compensation of the press on the Internet: Google takes a sanction of half a billion in France

As part of the debate on the remuneration of the online press, Google was fined 500 million euros. The Competition Authority considers that the American company has violated several injunctions.

It is an exceptional sentence that the Competition Authority has just imposed on Google, this Tuesday, July 13. As part of the file concerning the remuneration of the media to compensate for the exploitation of their press publications on its services, such as Discover or Google News, the net giant is condemned to pay 500 million euros.

That’s not all. If the American company continues to default in two months, from the decision rendered today, it will also have to pay very high penalties per day of delay. These could amount to 900,000 euros in all, or 300,000 euros per complainant (the Syndicate of magazine press editors, the Alliance de Presse for general information and Agence France Presse).

Google and media compensation

This exceptional sanction is part of the debate on the remuneration of the press under neighboring rights for their publications. These neighboring rights are akin to copyright and offer publishers and news agencies the right to authorize or prohibit the reproduction of their production on digital platforms – this concerns Google, but also sites like Facebook.

These provisions come from a law, promulgated in July 2019, which transposed a European directive. First, Google found a solution, by ceasing to display elements of the article (extract, photo, video, infographic, etc.) on its search engine, its news portal or Discover. To avoid this, Google proposed that the media give it a free authorization.

It was from there that things turned sour for Google. After the reproaches of the government, which then considered that it was a ploy to avoid paying anything to the media, even if it aimed to comply with the American company with the law on neighboring rights, the Competition Authority got involved, with an exploratory investigation in October 2019.

Google has sought to limit its exposure to neighboring press rights law, but things have not turned to its advantage since. // Source: Numerama

In April 2020, the case accelerates with the decision of the Competition Authority to order Google to enter into negotiations with the media to discuss their remuneration. This followed a complaint from the three complainants in November 2019. Emergency measures were then imposed on Google, on the grounds that its practices are ” likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position, and caused serious and immediate harm to the press sector.

However, it is precisely for having violated these precautionary measures that Google is inflicted with a penalty of half a billion euros. In its verdict, the Competition Authority considers that Google has not respected several injunctions issued against it in April 2020. In all, four injunctions are concerned, two of which are likely to result in late penalties.

These injunctions are:

  • The obligation to negotiate in good faith with the media, according to objective, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria;
  • The obligation to communicate to the media the information necessary “for a transparent assessment of the remuneration due”;
  • The obligation of neutrality on the terms of indexing, classification and presentation of press articles on Google services during negotiations;
  • The neutrality of negotiations on neighboring rights vis-à-vis any other economic relationship that Google maintains with the media involved.

Google must negotiate, and quickly find a deal

And now ? In addition to the payment of 500 million euros, Google must, warns the Competition Authority, present a remuneration offer to publishers and press agencies having seized it; in order to be able to use their publications. This only concerns AFP and media members of the Syndicate of Magazine Press Editors, the General Information Press Alliance.

If the Mountain View firm misses the mark, then penalties of 900,000 euros per day may be imposed on it. The company is given a period of two months to make all the necessary arrangements. In fact, the giant of the net is being made catch up by its device which should avoid him to undergo certain aspects of the law on the neighboring rights, by modifying the presentation of the links.

For the Competition Authority, Google, by its attitude, has “ extremely serious practices “. ” When the Authority imposes injunctions on companies, they are required to apply them scrupulously, respecting their letter and their spirit. In this case, this was unfortunately not the case. », Declared his present, Isabelle de Silva.

Google has two months to complete the case, under penalty of being subject to periodic penalty payments.

For its part, the American company says it is very surprised at the turn of events. ” We are very disappointed with this decision, because we have acted in good faith throughout the negotiation period. This fine does not reflect the efforts put in place or the reality of the use of news content on our platform. “Said a spokesperson for the net giant.

To date, Google is the only company to have announced agreements covering neighboring rights, and we are about to sign an agreement with AFP on a global license, as well as remuneration for neighboring rights for their publications. Press », He added, stressing that individual agreements have already been signed with many press titles.

We continued to work with publishers and news agencies to find common ground “, He added, adding that an agreement with AFP is potentially on track, as well as with other publishers and agencies. Google promises to take ” taking into account the feedback from the Competition Authority “. ” Our goal remains clear: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement.

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