French regulators fine Google $272 million in dispute with news publishers

FILE - The Google logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris in Paris, France, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. France's competition watchdog hit Google on Wednesday March 20, 2024 with another big fine in settling a long-running dispute centered on payments to French publishers for their news. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File) (Thibault Camus, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

PARIS – France’s competition watchdog hit Google on Wednesday with another big fine tied to a long-running dispute over payments to French publishers for their news.

The French Competition Authority said it issued the 250 million euro ($272 million) penalty because of Google's failure to comply with some commitments it made in a negotiating framework.

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The dispute is part of a larger effort by authorities in the European Union and around the world to force Google and other tech companies to compensate news publishers for content.

The U.S. tech giant was forced to negotiate with French publishers after a court in 2020 upheld an order saying payments were required by a 2019 European Union copyright directive.

Google said in a blog post that it agreed to settle the fine, which was imposed over how it conducted the negotiations, “because it's time to move on.” It said the fine was “not proportionate” to the issues raised by the French watchdog and “doesn’t sufficiently take into account” Google's efforts to answer and resolve the concerns.

France was the first of the EU’s 27 nations to adopt the copyright directive, which lays out a way for publishers and news companies to strike licensing deals with online platforms.

Wednesday's decision by the French Competition Authority is the fourth in as many years against Google for failing to comply with the EU legal framework that aims to establish “necessary conditions for balanced negotiations between press agencies, publishers and digital platforms.”

The French antitrust agency had issued temporary orders to Google in April 2020 to hold talks within three months with news publishers. In 2021, the agency fined Google 500 million euros ($592 million) for failing to negotiate a fair payment for publishers’ news.

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