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Google will pay $590 million fine in latest legal headache

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TL;DR

  • France has fined Google the equivalent of $590 million for allegedly failing to negotiate deals with news publishers in ‘good faith.’
  • Google has two months to propose compensation for news content.
  • It’s the latest in a string of government actions against the tech giant.

Regulators aren’t done demanding corrective action from Google. Android Central noted that Google has agreed to pay a €500 million fine (about $590 million) after France’s competition regulator (Autorité de la concurrence) determined the search giant hadn’t negotiated news content deals “in good faith” with publishers.

Google has two months to create proposals showing how it will compensate publishers, and faces a fine of €900,000 (roughly $1 million) per day if it doesn’t comply.

The European Parliament changed copyright rules in March 2019 to require that internet companies obtain licenses from news publishers when reusing snippets, such as for search results. France was the first to implement the new system and, in April 2020, ordered Google to negotiate with publishers in the next three months. Google faces the fine for having allegedly violated the “letter and the spirit” of that order, according to Autorité President Isabelle de Silva.

Related: Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against Google

Google supposedly ‘earned’ the fine through multiple violations. It pressed companies to negotiate deals for the News Showcase (which repackages stories as elaborate presentations) while giving up income from search. The tech pioneer also barred companies from asking for payments if their material showed up on other news sites.

Google was reluctant to pay for news. It argued that news outlets profited from the influx of readers that came through search results. In Australia, where Google encountered similar pressure, the company even argued that paying for news could threaten free services like YouTube.

Google said in a statement it was “committed” to honoring the order, but felt the fine was “out of all proportion” to the money it generates from news. France was ignoring the “significant efforts” to reach deals, according to a spokesperson. The company vowed to review the order, with hints it might challenge the decision.

The French fine is the latest in a long string of legal trouble for Google. A coalition of US states just sued the company a week earlier for allegedly abusing its control of the Play Store, while other cases in the US and Europe have sought to change the company’s approaches to Android, ads, and search. The company even received a fine from Italy for allegedly abusing its power over Android Auto. Google might not have choice but to rethink much of its behavior if it wants to avoid more legal repercussions.

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