3 Count: Fining Google

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1: Google Fined €500m by France’s Antitrust Watchdog Over Copyright

First off today, Reuters reports that France’s anti-trust watch dog has fined Google €500 million ($591 million) for failing to conduct talks with the country’s news publishers and secure rights under a new European Union (EU) law.

The move comes after France enacted a new EU law that grants news agencies rights to charge search engines and other services for the use of snippets, thumbnails and headlines. Search companies are required to negotiate in good faith over these rights, something French publishers say Google was not doing. This led to the watchdog’s decision.

Google now has two months to come up with proposals for news agencies, or it could face additional fines of up to €900,000 ($1.06 million) a day. The government had previously issued temporary orders which demanded talks with publishers take place. It’s these temporary orders that the government is saying were violated. Google has said it disagrees with the decision but will comply.

2: Man Sentenced to 12 Months Prison For Copyright Infringement & Tax Evasion

Next up today, Andy Maxwell at Torrentfreak writes that Talon White, the former operator of a pair of pirate websites, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for criminal copyright infringement and tax evasion. He has also been ordered to pay some $4.3 million is restitution to the MPAA (now MPA) and the IRS.

The investigation began almost 8 years ago when PayPal sent information to the alleged infringing sites to Homeland Security. That prompted the MPA to send a cease and desist letter to the site’s operator, which responded by actually opening up new sites. In November 2018, a judge granted a search warrant for White’s property and, a year later, he pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement and one count of tax evasion.

However, White’s sentencing was delayed due to the pandemic, and it only recently took place with the Department of Justice petitioning for a strong sentencing noting that White made millions off his operation and deliberately underreported his income by $4.4 million to the IRS. On top of the restitution, White must forfeit all currency and cryptocurrency previously seized from his bank accounts as well as a house purchased with the revenue.

3: ‘Borat’ Sustainable Cannabis Billboard Sparks Lawsuit

Finally today, Ashley Cullins at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that actor Sacha Baron Cohen has filed a lawsuit against Solar Therapeutics over the company’s use of Cohen’s character Borat on a Billboard used to promote their marijuana products.

According to the lawsuit, the billboard gives the public the false impression that Cohen has endorsed their products, even though Cohen personally has never used cannabis at any point in his life and would never participate in such a campaign.

The copyright element of the case comes from the fact that the photo was of Cohen’s character Borat, which Cohen owns the rights to through his company. The lawsuit is seeking actual damages to be proven at trial but estimated to be at least $9 million and is further demanding a jury trial.

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