Google's hold over the majority of the internet has not gone unnoticed. The dotcom conglomerate is often seen as the center of the web, a station that all content runs through. However, as the usability of Google relies on the content of others, it’s been said that the company's state as a publisher should result in creator compensation.
The French Competition Authority has chased this lead in a recent lawsuit. After the country's mandate declared that Google News snippets must result in fair compensation, the watchdog discovered that Google wasn’t pursuing the new law “in good faith”.
Google fined €500 million
In 2019, France’s Copyright Directive, the Link Tax, gave French publishers the right to be paid for their content appearing on Google News. Initially, the company fired back, claiming that it would show blank cards instead of snippets. That was deemed as an abuse of the company's search monopoly.
The FCA claimed that Google forced all deals to only focus on News Showcase, not the entirety of Google News. Furthermore, the company was said to be unwilling to negotiate revenue shares from other avenues where Google shares other outlet’s content.
In response, the FCA dished out a hefty €500 million fine. As the company failed to deal with “the remuneration due to [publishers] under the Neighbouring Rights Act for the resumption of their protected content,” Google was fined.
Was it just bad timing?
In a statement to The Verge, Google explained that it was about to finalise their dealings with the French press. The company claimed that it was ready to finish negotiations on a “global licensing agreement" as well as honoring the Neighbouring Rights Act.
However, Google remains steadfast in the claim that news searches don't result in much money for the company. The statement reads:
While we are committed to complying with the Copyright Directive and the FCA’s orders, this fine ignores the significant efforts we have made to reach agreements and the reality of how news works on our platforms: Google last year generated less than 5 million Euros in revenue-not-profit from clicks on ads against possible news-related queries in France. We want to find a solution and reach definitive agreements but this fine is out of all proportion to the amount of money we make from news and we will be reviewing the decision in detail.
The FCA has granted Google a two-month window to adhear to the authority's requests. If the company fails to do so, more fines will be given. The FCA explains that company will be fined an extra €900,000 per day that it fails to conform.