back to article Google fined €500m for not paying French publishers after using their words on web

Google was fined €500m ($590m, £425m) by the French Competition Authority on Tuesday for failing to negotiate fees with news publishers for using their content. In April last year, the regulator ruled the American search giant had to compensate French publishers for using snippets of their articles in Google News, citing …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Send in the bailiffs?

    I am a little curious as to how the fine can be enforced if gargle decides not to pay.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Send in the bailiffs?

      Size any Google asset in France?

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: Send in the bailiffs?

        And France can get the EU to back it, which will affect Google Ireland. And Google won't want to pull out of the richest economic block in the world.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Send in the bailiffs?

      Inform Google that all French telcos are to deny all access to all Google controlled networks one year from now to allow time for companies to move their infrastructure to other platforms.

      Of course a few companies and users will circumvent this with VPN's, but in the end Google will lose way more money than 500M, and this will also boost their competition.

      France can also start driving much harder sanctions against Google in the EU since they're the second biggest power in the block.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      There are ways

      Revoking the google.fr domain would probably kill a good part of their revenue in France, assuming French users access them that way rather than google.com. I'll bet all the Android phones in France that access Google services access them via that domain, and Google would have to scramble to push an update for the millions of now mostly non functional Androids.

      Ban French banks from making any payments to Google, which would block most French businesses from advertising with them, cutting off more revenue.

      Even if they don't have a single asset in France they can put the squeeze on them. Of course Google could respond by geoblocking the whole country and leaving French users dependent on Google services stranded. Theoretically at least - I imagine that would become a diplomatic issue at that point between the US and EU and however it ended up Google would not come out the winner.

      1. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: There are ways

        French citizens would still be coverd by EU consumer protections. So unless Google want to pull out of the entire EU, they won't shut off France.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: There are ways

          What sort of EU consumer protection law prevents a company from deciding not to do business in a particular country?

      2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: There are ways

        Ever heard of gilets jaunes. You thought those protests were bad?

    4. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: Send in the bailiffs?

      I'm even more curious about this

      "For one thing, it just stopped including snippets from French publishers in all Google services."

      I haven't had enough coffee yet but the article reads to me that the French are fining Google for not including snippets from French publishers now. Google used to include snippets and didn't pay now they're not including them and not paying. What is there to negotiate about?

      1. mng

        Re: Send in the bailiffs?

        I think that is exactly right - Google is obliged to negotiate fairly (who defines fair?) for the right to snippets, and is not allowed to back out. This is such a scam on the part of the French that it is a shame that Google will probably be forced to cave in - because other countries will be trying this sooner or later. I suppose it is the cost of doing business for Google, but it props up antiquated news outlets which deserve to fade away gracefully.

  2. CJ_C
    Coat

    Jail!

    Arrest Google execs next time they set foot in EU.

  3. knarf

    If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

    French like any excuse to fine the big tech.

    1. WanderingHaggis
      Devil

      Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

      Seems reasonable to me, you plagiarizer or treat my hard work as free and kill my living then you deserve it.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

        @WanderingHaggis

        "you plagiarizer or treat my hard work as free and kill my living then you deserve it."

        Is there a robots.txt to tell search engines to ignore the content?

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

          Beat me to it on the robots.txt

          At least Google obey it (glares at Baidu & many others)

          When I use a news aggregator I often click through to the actual site to get details so "publisher" gets their hits (unless its a site I have blacklisted for over intrusive ads as they can swivel)

          Don't if its a clickbait or mickey take headline e.g. a lot of "local" UK newspaper sites (in reality owned by a handful of big companies) have a penchant for headlines construct such as "[potentially interesting] event in [countyname]", which the aggregators dutifully just give the headline

          e.g. "300 new homes to be built in Kent town" "Major accident in Yorkshire village"

          .. in these cases I don't bother as chances are its going to be irrelevant (most counties big & area of the county you are interested in relatively small) - if its near enough to be "local" to me I will eventually hear about it via friends or other news sources.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

            If they didn't have Google distributing their click-bait they might have to write interesting articles.

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

          I have 4 downvotes but nobody suggesting that robots.txt exists on those news sites nor that it wouldnt solve the problem.

          Its a serious question. If they dont want google offering up their news (with links to drive them more traffic as I understand it) then why not just exclude pages from the web crawling?

          1. stiine Silver badge

            Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

            Because that would wipe them from search listiings, and most internet users would no longer be able to reach them by typing their names into google search*.

            You'd be amazed how many people type GOOGLE into the search bar to go to google... maybe not amazed, but utterly depressed.

            1. Yes Me Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

              Well, browsers seem to have mainly forgotten that there's a difference between the URL bar and the search bar anyway. Unfortunate circumstances forced me to use Edge briefly the other day, and whatever URL I tried seemed to send me into Bing.

              I'm off now to devise a way to make googling google recursive.

            2. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: If you can't tax 'em fine 'em

              @stiine

              "Because that would wipe them from search listiings"

              Well yes. So they can tell search engines what pages they can scrape and which they cant. So news sites can easily resolve this, they just want their cake and eat it.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Thick skin

    Does this enable all other people and organisations whose content appear in the results to sue?

    I mean why Google should only pay the "publishers" but not anyone else?

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Thick skin

      Try to keep up.

      This is not a penalty for snippets in the search results linking to the article in question, but where Google aggregates news with no links or accreditation and present it as "Google News".

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Thick skin

        There may well be a legitimate problem here, but I wonder if you've described it correctly. Google news credits its sources, limits its description to short snippets and provides a link to the original source. Always has I believe. At least here in the US. Its news operation looks to be designed to be compliant with "Fair Use" under US copyright law because they'd surely be in deep trouble at home and most everywhere else if they weren't.

        Look for yourself https://news.google.com/topstories

        I'm not especially fond of Google for a lot of reasons. But I'm not sure Google News is especially evil except for its contributing click data to Google's extensive dossiers on every sentient creature on the planet.

        BTW. I imagine that Google's response other than sending a platoon of lawyers to France to argue compliance with EU copyright law will be to stop ever reporting news from French sources.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Thick skin

          "BTW. I imagine that Google's response other than sending a platoon of lawyers to France to argue compliance with EU copyright law will be to stop ever reporting news from French sources."

          This seems to be the best option from Google's PoV, giving, as it does, the possibility of letting them pay to have sponsored snippets appear.

        2. Mr Dogshit

          Re: Thick skin

          There is no such thing as "fair use". Even the US reluctantly signed up to the Berne Convention

          eventually in 1988.

          You cannot rip off other peoples' work, it's as simple as that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Thick skin

            except of course that fair use absolutely is a thing. It may be called by different names, but it does exist. e.g. in the UK https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptions-to-copyright

          2. Uffish

            Re: "fair use"

            US law is US law, French and EU law is French and EU law. In this case there seems to be up to half a million Euros of difference between the two systems.

            Enough, probably, to make even a big rival to Qwant pause for thought.

        3. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Thick skin

          The French have a very individual idea of copyright compared to the US (for example, they don't have the notion of public space -- in theory any photograph you take on the street is subject to copyright). If I were Google I'd just turn the place off until they try to negotiate sensibly -- its not like Google's been ignoring the request to negotiate with copyright holders, its just that the negotiations haven't gone as as fast or as far as the court thinks is appropriate. So its shakedown time.

          FWIW -- I mostly use "DuckDuckGo" as a search engine. You don't have to use Google for anything, its just that it works and is convenient for many. So let's stop trying to pretend that everything's Google's fault and let's stop trying to shake them down at every opportunity.

          1. Yes Me Silver badge

            Re: Thick skin

            "pretend that everything's Google's fault"

            No, it's just that most things are Google's fault. The rest is FaceBook's and Twitter's fault.

            But seriously, French copyright law applies in France, so what else do you expect the French to do? Australian copyright law applies in Australia, and Google first blustered, then complied. It will go the same way in France.

            You wait until the EU goes after them again for privacy breaches. That will be measured in billions, not millions, of €.

  5. IHateWearingATie

    I expect Google are doing the sums right not to see if the cost of paying media firms in France is more than the fine will be. My guess is that its close at around $329m per year in fines

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Yep. 1MEU/day is probably more that they are making in France on ads. Probably.

      It will be interesting. They won the war with Spain, but times seem to be changing.

  6. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

    I think having such publishers around also benefits google, so that they have content to spider and attracts users to google's site.

    Maybe google would also like other big search engines / news aggregators to contribute to the publishers, since all of them benefit from the publisher's work.

  7. IGotOut Silver badge

    How it could play out.

    Google: "We wont play, we'll take our ball back"

    France "EU fancy stepping in?"

    EU directive "*.doubleclick.com 0.0.0.0"

    Google "Hey guys, we've found some spare cash, it's all just a silly misunderstanding"

  8. ElRegioLPL

    I think after seeing what happened with Facebook in Australia, Google will play the game properly quite quickly...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not if they're smart.

  9. Sulky

    Cats & Pigeons

    I'd like to see a country throw a £100B fine at one of these companies for whichever transgression they have made this week just to see what would happen.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Cats & Pigeons

      Lawyers would get richer.

  10. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Just when I thought maybe these media goons were gonna go to the wall cos nobody is buying their shitty stories, this shit happens

    They’re gonna be effectively immortal

    These pricks love capitalism, except when they’re losing

  11. Criminny Rickets

    Turnabout

    Google should just pay the fine and negotiate a fee with the publishers, of course Google can then turn around and charge these same publishers a "nominal" fee for driving web traffic to their sites. If that fee Google charges the sites happens to be more than the publishers are charging Google, well, that is the cost of doing business on the web.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just posturing

    Until big tech completely takes over democracies

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