Google is back on the firing line once again over its relationships with news publishers. The French competition authority issued the company a fine of 500 million euros ($592M) on Tuesday after deeming it had not engaged "in good faith" with news publishers.
France was one of the first European nations to put into action the EU Copyright Directive, which came into force in 2019 and allows publishers to request remuneration for displaying their content. Last year, the country told Google it must negotiate licensing fees with publishers or face penalties. But a coalition of French news publishers complained to the competition authority that the company was not following orders.
This is far from Google's first run-in with news publishers. The company has been locked in negotiations with publishers around the world over the way it displays snippets of copyrighted content in search results -- also known as neighboring rights.
"We hoped that the negotiation would be fruitful and that the actors would play the game. Google still does not seem to accept the law as it was voted, but it is not up to an actor, even a dominant one, to rewrite the law," the authority's president, Isabelle de Silva, told Politico.
The authority rejected Google's attempts at negotiating as being in good faith, due to several conditions the company was attaching to reaching a solution. These included demanding to discuss partnerships only in the context of its own news product, called Showcase; refusing to take into account indirect revenues generated by press material to asses remuneration; and refusing to negotiate with companies that didn't publish "general and political information."
"We are very disappointed with this decision -- we have acted in good faith throughout the entire process," said a spokesperson for Google in a statement. "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 neighbouring rights."
Google also said that it's close to finalizing a deal with French news agency AFP that includes global licensing agreements.
Based on Tuesday's ruling in France, the company now has a further two months to develop proposals detailing how it plans to compensate publishers or face additional fines of 900,000 euros per day.