European Comission Flikr

France’s anti-trust organization has told Google it must negotiate a “fair price” with publishers over its use of news snippets in search results and Google News. The move followed a pan-EU copyright reform last year, which many will remember from the fear that is would ban memes.

In that directive was an extension of copyright to cover the leads on news stories, which are often utilized by news aggregators via automated scraping. So far, countries looking to enforce similar measures have been unsuccessful. Google has decided, in some cases, to pull its Google News service rather than pay. In France, it switched to displaying just headlines.

It now seems the country’s competition authority is having none of it. It says the search giant’s withdrawal of snippets constitutes an abuse of its market dominance, and that the move “seriously and immediately damaged the press sector.”

Due to the impact of the snippet withdrawal on page views, France says Google has been able to negotiate agreements with most publishers for free use of their content without payment, with that use sometimes covering more than before.

What’s Next for Google

Google now has three months to negotiate “fair” terms with the press, which will include payment. It can continue to display snippets in the meantime but will have to pay retroactively for any it has used since France introduced its version of the EU directive last October. It will also have to give monthly reports on the situation. Google says it will comply with the order in the meantime.

“Since the European Copyright law came into force in France last year, we have been engaging with publishers to increase our support and investment in news,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We will comply with the FCA’s order while we review it and continue those negotiations.”

At the same time, though, it directed press to a previous blogpost highlighting what it already does for publishers – including providing ads, directing traffic, and a $300 million fund to help them develop new products.