Google and France: Whoa, Will Googlers Put That Trip to Provence on Hold?

July 13, 2021

Many news sources reported that the French government has put a price tag on Google’s content frivolities. The fine is in the neighborhood of $600 million. To put this in perspective, Google generates about $600 million a day in revenue, so no big deal.

CNBC’s “Google Hit with Record $593 Million Fine in France over News Copyright Battle” reports:

Google was ordered to present an offer of remuneration to publishers within two months, or risk facing fines of up to 900,000 euros per day.

From a practical point of view, Google will work out a plan. The plan will be discussed over numerous two-hour lunches, and then revised if warranted. If agreement is not reached, Google will seek redress in an appropriate manner. Google could write a check, threaten Apple-style to pull out of the country, or embrace the fascinating French legal system. Keep in mind that red tape is allegedly an invention of the Spanish has been a favorite method in France for centuries.

I found the Russian viewpoint interesting. “France slaps Google with Biggest Fine Ever of €500 Million for Failing to Comply with Copyright Rules” states:

The US company expressed upset at the French authority’s decision in a statement: “We have acted in good faith during the entire negotiation period. This fine does not reflect the efforts put in place, nor the reality of the use of news content on our platform.” The battle between Google and French publishers, including Agence France-Presse, has been going on since early 2020. Despite Google claiming that it has acted appropriately, French publishers insist that the company has used copyrighted articles and images without fairly paying the original authors under the EU “neighboring rights” rule. In February, Google was forced to pay out $76 million dollars to 121 French news outlets, with $22 million to be paid annually over three years.

The French fine might encourage other European Union entities to take a harder line with regard to what Google has been doing for the last 20 years. If that happens, the fines might consume a week or two of Google’s revenue. This begs the question, “What’s the point?” Either regulators take action that incentivizes different behavior at Google or just use the money, buy a good Beaujolais, rent a super yacht, and cruise to Antarctica to look at the big penguins.

Stephen E Arnold, July 13, 2021

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