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France Retaliates to Google’s Refusal to Pay Publishers

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Oct. 17 2019, Published 2:04 p.m. ET

France isn’t taking Google’s (GOOGL) decision to stop showing article extracts in news search results lightly. The country believes Google’s workaround to avoid paying copyright fees to publishers must be stopped. As a result, France wants the EU to set up a special regulatory agency for the technology sector to supervise big tech companies and fine them if they fail to comply with EU directives.

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EU copyright law puts Google and France on a collision course

This year, the EU passed a new copyright law requiring Google, Facebook (FB), and others to pay European publishers for displaying their content on digital platforms. Google’s online news service shows article snippets alongside story headlines in its search results. However, Google doesn’t want to pay for that content.

The company has argued that tying payments to search results would undermine trust in its service, and has therefore decided to show only story headlines in European news search results. However, France thinks Google’s action doesn’t align with what the EU’s new copyright law was designed to achieve. France was the first EU country to enforce the new copyright law.

Plays hardball with big tech companies

France has generally been tough on big tech companies, and on Google in particular. In September, France slapped Google with a $550 million tax fine and demanded around $514 million in back taxes. And in January, France fined Google $57 million for failing to protect people’s personal data as required by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Amazon (AMZN) has also irked French authorities. Last month, France fined Amazon $4.4 million for unfair business practices. The country also has Facebook (FB) in its crosshairs over alleged hate speech. Google’s copyright dispute comes as France prepares to implement a 3.0% digital service tax next year, which Google and other tech companies have protested.

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