Neighboring rights: the Competition Authority recommends a “dissuasive” fine against Google

The American giant is accused of not having respected the injunction which was made to him to negotiate “in good faith” with the editors and press agencies under the title of the “neighboring right”.

A fine «dissuasive» must be pronounced against Google for not having respected the injunction which was made to him in April to negotiate “in good faith” with publishers and press agencies, recommends an internal report from the Competition Authority, according to sources having access to this document.

“It appears necessary (…) to order Google to comply under penalty with the injunctions provided for by the decision within an extremely short period of time to ensure effective execution”, conclude the investigation services of the Authority, according to these sources having read the report sent to the parties at the beginning of the week. The rapporteurs consider the breaches of serious “Quite exceptional”, added these sources.

The Authority’s college must now decide on a possible financial penalty and set the amount. The report recommends a sanction “Dissuasive for the future” with a penalty “Sufficiently dissuasive for a company such as Google”, specified these same sources. The maximum fine that the Competition Authority can set in the case of a company is 10% of the amount of worldwide turnover excluding taxes, or 16 billion euros for Google.

“Our priority is to be in compliance with the law, and to continue to negotiate in good faith with newspaper publishers, as evidenced by the agreements we have reached with many of them in recent months. We will now take note of the notification of objections, and will work closely with the Competition Authority ”, reacted a spokesperson for Google. The AFP leadership, which is one of the press organizations to seize the authority, did not comment. The Syndicate of Magazine Press Editors (SEPM) did not wish to react.

Agreement in France

At the end of 2019, the French press accused Google of flouting neighboring rights, this right similar to copyright, created by a European directive and supposed to lead to a better sharing of digital revenues for the benefit of newspaper publishers and press agencies. . This, Google had unilaterally decided to index less well the newspapers which would refuse to let it continue to exploit their contents (titles, extracts of articles and thumbnails) for free in its search results. The French press, having little choice, had complied but immediately seized the Competition Authority, which had ordered in April 2020 to Google to negotiate “in good faith” with the publishers, a decision then confirmed by the Paris Court of Appeal.

In mid-January, the General Information Press Alliance (Apig, which represents in particular national and regional dailies) and Google announced an agreement that paves the way for newspaper remuneration, which had been welcomed by the Authority. competition. The amount of this windfall had not been specified, the financial data of the agreement being confidential. It will be set individually, based on criteria such as “The contribution to political and general information, the daily volume of publications or even the monthly internet audience”, had specified both parties.

Facebook vs. Australia

Beyond France, several countries are trying to make the major platforms, including Google and Facebook, which dominate the global advertising market, pay for their use of press content. The Australian Parliament finally adopted this Thursday a first legislation of this type, but had to agree to compromise on the points to which were fiercely opposed the behemoths that dominate the internet.

The first legislation of this type, to the point of attracting the attention of governments around the world, it was adopted a few days after agreements directly concluded between Facebook, Google and various Australian media.