Google Faces $271 mn Penalty Over AI Breaches in France

France’s competition watchdog has imposed a fine of €250 million ($271.73 million) on Alphabet’s Google for violations related to EU intellectual property regulations in its dealings with digital media publishers, citing concerns regarding the company’s AI service. This is the fourth decision issued by the Autorite in this case in four years.
Google AI Gemini priceThe regulator revealed that Google’s AI-powered chatbot Bard, later rebranded as Gemini, was trained using content from digital news publishers and news agencies without their prior notification. Google, in response, has agreed not to contest the findings as part of the settlement proceedings. Additionally, the tech giant has proposed a set of remedial measures to address certain deficiencies highlighted by the watchdog.

Google has acknowledged the settlement, stating it is time to move forward and focus on sustainable approaches to connecting users with quality content, as well as collaborating constructively with French publishers. However, the company expressed its view that the fine was disproportionate, emphasizing the complexities of navigating an uncertain regulatory environment.

This penalty stems from a copyright dispute in France over online content, initially triggered by complaints from major news organizations including Agence France Presse (AFP). While it appeared resolved in 2022 when Google dropped its appeal against a €500 million fine issued by the Autorite de la Concurrence, the recent statement from the watchdog indicates ongoing concerns.

The regulator noted that Google breached four out of seven commitments agreed upon in the settlement, including negotiating with publishers in good faith and providing transparent information. In particular, the watchdog highlighted Google’s utilization of the AI chatbot Bard, which allegedly relied on data from various media outlets and news agencies without proper notification, hindering publishers’ ability to negotiate fair compensation.

The Autorite found in particular that Bard had used content from press agencies and digital publishers to train its foundation model, without notifying either them or the Autorite.

Google subsequently linked the use by its artificial intelligence service of the content concerned to the display of protected content, by failing to propose a technical solution for press agencies and publishers to opt out of the use of their content by Bard without affecting the display of content protected by related rights on other Google services, thus obstructing the ability of press agencies and publishers to negotiate remuneration, the Autorite said.

This penalty on Google comes amidst a broader context where publishers and newsrooms are striving to safeguard their online content from unauthorized scraping by AI services without adequate consent or compensation.

In a related development, The New York Times filed a lawsuit against Google’s rivals Microsoft and OpenAI, accusing them of utilizing millions of articles without permission to train their chatbots, Reuters news report said.

Google emphasized the need for clarity regarding payments for content usage, signaling a broader conversation within the industry regarding fair compensation for publishers.

Baburajan Kizhakedath

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