The French decision is the latest in a battle between news publishers and internet platforms over the use of news content. In Europe and elsewhere, policymakers have increasingly sided with publishers who argue that internet companies are profiting from the unfair use of their content. Companies like Google and Facebook have argued that they are driving traffic to the news websites.
Internet companies fought a copyright law passed this year in Australia that gave publishers more negotiating leverage. It led to a showdown in which Facebook briefly removed news from its platform for users inside the country, before quickly relenting.
As policymakers crack down, Google has been trying to strike deals with individual publishers. In October, the company said it would spend more than $1 billion to license content from international news organizations. And in February, it announced a three-year deal with News Corp, owner of The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal and other prominent news outlets.
Google, which can appeal the fine, said that it was “very disappointed” with the French decision and that it was continuing to negotiate with publishers. “We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process,” Google said in a statement. “The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms.”
The French authorities said Google placed unfair restrictions on its negotiations with publishers, including requiring them to participate in the company’s new licensing program, News Showcase. Google had reached a deal with some prominent French news outlets — including Le Monde, L’Obs and Le Figaro — but others raised concerns about the process.