Google appealing to ‘disproportionately’ French copyright negotiations Fine

Google is appealing the more than half a billion dollar fine it got slapped with by France’s competition authority in July.

This penalty is related to how the Adtech giant paid news publishers for reuse of content.

Sebastien Missoffe (Google France Vice President and Country Manager) described the penalty as “disproportionate”, claiming the $592M fine is unjustified in view of Google’s efforts to make a deal for news publishers and adhere to updated copyright laws. This sounds like a very weak sauce as defense statements would suggest.

We appeal the decision of France’s Competition Authority regarding our negotiations from April to August 2020. Missoffe stated that she disagreed with several legal aspects and believes the fine was excessive for our efforts to come to an agreement. She added: “Irrespective, this is something we acknowledge neighboring rights, and we continue working hard to solve this case and to put in place deals. We have expanded our offers to over 1,200 publishers and clarified certain aspects of our contracts. In addition, we share more data, as required by the French Competition Authority’s July Decision.

Back in 2019, the European Union agreed on an update to digital copyright rules which extended cover to the ledes of news stories — snippets of which aggregators such as Google News had for years routinely scraped and displayed.

Each EU member state then had to incorporate the pan-EU reforms in their own national legislations. France was the leader.

The country’s competition watchdog has also been leading the charge in enforcing updated rules against Google — ordering the tech giant to negotiate with publishers last year and following that up with a whopping fine when publishers complained to it about how Google was treating those talks.

The Autorite de la Concurrence announced the penalty in summer. It claimed that the tech giant tried to unilaterally impose an international news licensing product upon local publishers to prevent having to place a financial value on neighboring rights remuneration. This is where it has a legal obligation (under EU or French law) to negotiate with those publishers.

Google appeal is not a placeholder. The full list of grievances that the watchdog had against Google’s modeus operandi was quite long.

According to Reuters, Autorite said that the appeal would not delay the decision or affect the timeframe of an order already made. In mid-July, Google was given a two-month deadline to review its offer and give publishers all required information. If it fails to do so, it could face daily fines of EUR900,000. There are only two weeks left before the deadline.

Google might be hoping by making an announcement now that it will help publishers’ minds –and encourage them to accept — any tweaked offer. This is why it announced an “expanded” offer, which currently covers 1,200 publishers. It also talked of “clarifying certain aspects of our contracts”, and “sharing more information”, both of which are areas in which Google was severely criticized by the Autorite. __S.16__

Publiated at Wednesday, 01 September 2021 14:02.04 +0000

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