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France's competition watchdog hits Google with €250m fine

March 20, 2024

The French competition watchdog has fined Google €250 million for breaches of EU intellectual property rules and failing to uphold agreements with French publishers and news agencies.

According to the regulator, Google violates terms 4 out of 7 commitments agreed in the settlement agreement.
The fine comes as many publishers, writers and newsrooms seek to limit the automatic collection of data by AI services of their online content without their consent.Image: Andrew Kelly/File Photo/Reuters

France's regulator on Wednesday said it fined Alphabet's Google €250 million ($271.7 million) for breaches of  EU intellectual property rules in its relationship with media publishers.

The French Competition Authority said Google trained its artificial intelligence-powered Bard chatbot, since rebranded as Gemini, on content from publishers and news agencies without notifying them.

According to the regulator, Google violated four of the seven commitments it made in 2022 as part of a settlement with publishers to negotiate fairly with news organizations.

Google did not provide publishers with a way to object to the use of their content, "hindering" their ability to negotiate remuneration, the regulator added.

French competition watchdog fined Google €250
Google said the fine was disproportionate and the watchdog had not sufficiently taken into account its effortsImage: La Nacion/ZUMA PRESS/picture alliance

Google called Wednesday's fine disproportionate, and said the watchdog had not sufficiently taken into account its efforts "in an environment where it's very hard to set a course because we can’t predict which way the wind will blow next." However, Google said it accepted the settlement because "it is time to move on." 

The fine comes as many publishers, writers and newsrooms seek to limit the automatic collection of their content by AI services without their consent.

The dispute seemed to be resolved in 2022 when the US tech giant dropped its appeal against an  initial fine issued at the end of a major investigation.

France isn't the only EU country to challenge Google over news content.

Spain's competition watchdog last year began an investigation for alleged anti-competitive practices affecting news agencies and press publications. In 2022, Germany's antitrust regulator shelved an investigation into Google's News Showcase service, after the tech giant made "important adjustments" to ease competition concerns.
The New York Times in 2023 sued Google rivals Microsoft and OpenAI, the creator of the popular artificial intelligence platform ChatGPT, accusing them of using millions of the newspaper's articles without permission to help train chatbots.

Why Big Tech is under fire around the world

ssa/sms  (Reuters, AFP)