France fined $500 million euros—about $593 million—for ignoring a 2020 ruling that requires the search giant to reach a fair deal with French news sources from which it steals content.
“The sanction of 500 million euros takes into account the exceptional seriousness of the breaches observed,” Autorité de la concurrence president Isabelle de Silva said of the second-highest antitrust fine that France has ever leveled at a corporation. “When the Authority imposes orders on companies, they are required to apply them scrupulously, respecting their letter and spirit. In this instance, unfortunately, that was not the case.”
The French agency ruled in April 2020 that Google, which scrapes content from news agencies around the world and republishes it for free, would have to negotiate fair deals for that content with French news sources. It did reach deals with some French publishers, like Le Monde and Le Figaro, but not with others such as Agence France-Presse.
“We are very disappointed with this decision,” a Google spokesperson said. “We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms … [We] want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers.”
Google also notes that it was on the verge of reaching a global licensing agreement with Agence France-Presse when it was informed of the fine.
Google can appeal this decision, but it now has two months to strike new deals with French news publishers. And it can face further fines of $356,000 each day for each deal that isn’t finalized after that.