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France Fines Google $270M for Breaching Publisher Commitments and Misusing Data for AI Training

In a continuing battle between Google and France’s competition authority, the Autorité de la Concurrence imposed a hefty €250 million fine (approximately $270 million) on the tech giant. The penalty stems from Google’s alleged disregard for previous commitments with news publishers and its unauthorized use of their content for training its generative AI model, Bard/Gemini.

The dispute originates from the European Union’s digital copyright reform in 2019, which extended copyright protections to news headlines and snippets. Google initially sought to circumvent the law by shutting down Google News in France. However, regulatory intervention led to negotiations with local publishers. In 2021, Google faced a $592M fine for breaching negotiation terms, prompting the company to offer commitments to ensure fair payment talks with publishers.

Violation Details:
The Autorité found Google guilty of failing to inform news publishers about its use of their copyrighted content for training its Bard AI model. This breach occurred despite Google’s commitment to fair payment talks and transparency. The competition watchdog also criticized Google’s opaque methodology for calculating remuneration, discriminatory practices, and failure to update contracts in line with its pledges.

Google’s Response:
While Google agreed not to contest the Autorité’s findings to expedite the process and make a monetary payment, it expressed dissatisfaction with the fine’s proportionality. The company emphasized its commitment to sustainable partnerships with publishers and highlighted the importance of moving forward from the dispute.

AI Training Concerns:
The enforcement action underscores concerns about Google’s use of news content for training AI models. The Autorité focused on Google’s lack of notification to copyright holders and the absence of a technical solution for publishers to opt out of AI model training. These issues raise questions about data privacy, transparency, and compliance with EU copyright law.

Implications and Future Outlook:
The fine highlights the regulatory scrutiny surrounding AI technologies and content reuse practices. As the EU AI Act awaits final adoption, companies like Google face increased accountability for AI model training and transparency requirements. The outcome of this case may influence future AI governance efforts and copyright regulations globally, shaping the landscape of digital content usage and AI development.

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