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France: Tech giants like Google do not contribute to funding the common good

French President Emmanuel Macron, who will defend a global tax on tech giants at this weekend's G7 meeting, on Wednesday criticised a "crazy" system that gives firms a "permanent tax haven status".

France: Tech giants like Google do not contribute to funding the common good
US based tech giant will be subject to taxes in France under new laws. Photo: AFP

“The global tech players do not contribute financially to the funding of the common good, it is not sustainable,” the president told reporters.

He said he had on Monday discussed the issue with US President Donald Trump, who has strongly opposed a law passed in France last month on taxing digital companies even if their headquarters are elsewhere.

READ ALSO France tells Trump – your threat to tax French wine is stupid

The law will affect US-based global giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, among others.

Macron said there had been “very strong lobbying” by the tech giants.

“We must stop having people who have a permanent tax haven status,” he said.

The French law aims to plug a taxation gap that has seen some internet heavyweights paying next to nothing in European countries where they make huge profits, because their legal base is in smaller EU states.

France has said it would withdraw the tax if an international agreement is reached, and Paris hopes to include all OECD countries by the end of 2020.   

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said last month France hoped to reach an agreement with the US on a universal tax on digital activities before the G7 heads of state meeting in Biarritz this weekend.

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TECH

Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row

Google's legal tussle with French regulators continues.

Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row
Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Google on Wednesday said it is appealing a decision by France’s competition watchdog to hand it a €500m fine in a row with news outlets over the use of their content under EU copyright rules.

“We disagree with some of the legal elements, and consider the amount of the fine to be disproportionate compared to the efforts we have put in place to reach a deal and respect the new law,” Sebastien Missoffe, head of Google France, said in a statement.

The fine, issued by the French Competition Authority in July, was the biggest in the agency’s history for a failure to comply with one of its rulings.

Head of Google France, Sebastien Missoffe, has hit back against French regulators (Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP)

The watchdog said Google had failed to negotiate “in good faith” with media companies in a long-running legal battle over the internet giant’s use of snippets of articles, photos and videos in search results.

The row has centred on claims that Google has used this content in its search results without adequate compensation, despite the seismic shift of global advertising revenues towards the search giant over the past two decades.

In April last year, the French competition authority ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with media groups after it refused to comply with a 2019 European Union law governing digital copyright.

The so-called “neighbouring rights” aim to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.

Last September, French news publishers including Agence France-Presse (AFP) filed a complaint with regulators, saying Google was refusing to move forward on paying to display content in web searches.

While Google insists it has made progress, the French regulator said the company’s behaviour “indicates a deliberate, elaborate and systematic lack of respect” for its order to negotiate in good faith.

The Competition Authority rebuked Google for failing to “have a specific discussion” with media companies about neighbouring rights during negotiations over its Google Showcase news service, which launched late last year.

Missoffe insisted Wednesday that Google “recognises neighbouring rights, and we remain committed to signing agreements in France”.

“We have extended our offers to nearly 1,200 publishers and modified aspects of our contracts,” he said, adding that the company has “shared data demanded of us in order to conform to the Competition Authority’s decision”.

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