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France’s competition authority slaps massive copyright fine on Google

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France’s competition watchdog fined internet giant Google €250 million ($271 million) for failing to uphold binding copyright agreements with French publishers and agencies, according to a statement issued by the authority on Wednesday.

The authorities accuse Google of non-transparent and incomplete communication in negotiations with publishers and press agencies regarding payment for the use of press content.

Google is also alleged to have underestimated the indirect revenue from the press content used.

The competition authority also sees misconduct in connection with Google’s Gemini AI program because the company had not informed publishers and agencies about the use of their content by the software.

Google had provided no opportunity for publishers to object to its use, and instead only offered the chance to reject the use of their content by all Google services.

French publishers had been arguing with Google about copyright for several years. The issue was that Google should pay for the online use of content that goes beyond links and very short extracts.

The background to this is an EU copyright amendment passed in 2019, which is intended to adapt the outdated copyright law in the European Union to the digital age, and secure better remuneration for authors for their content online.

Google had initially refused to make such payments. The company then conceded defeat at the Paris Court of Appeal in autumn 2020. The Group and publishers then reached an agreement in principle in 2022.

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