Google Accepts Fine from French Competition Watchdog

Google has agreed to pay a fine imposed by the French government’s competition watchdog for a previous breach of European Union intellectual property (IP) laws related to its treatment of media publishers. The French competition authority raised concerns about Google’s AI service, Gemini (formerly known as Bard), alleging that it utilized content from local publishers and news agencies without proper notification and clearance.

In settlement proceedings, Google has pledged not to contest the facts, as confirmed by the watchdog. The company has also proposed a series of remedy measures to address certain shortcomings. However, Google’s office in France has yet to respond to requests for comment regarding the fine.

The fine is a result of a copyright dispute in France concerning online content, initiated by complaints from major news organizations such as Agence France Presse (AFP). Initially, the dispute seemed resolved in 2022 when Google dropped its appeal against an initial 500 million euro fine issued by the Autorite de la Concurrence after a comprehensive investigation.

However, the watchdog stated in its recent statement that Google breached the terms of four out of seven commitments agreed upon in the settlement. This includes failure to negotiate with publishers in good faith and provide transparent information. The watchdog particularly highlighted Google’s AI chatbot, Bard, launched in 2023, which was trained on data from undisclosed media outlets and news agencies without informing them or the regulator. This action, according to the watchdog, impeded publishers’ and press agencies’ ability to negotiate fair prices.

The fine comes at a time when many publishers, writers, and newsrooms are seeking to limit the unauthorized use of their online content by AI services without consent or fair compensation. Notably, The New York Times sued Google’s rivals Microsoft and OpenAI in 2023, accusing them of using millions of its articles without permission to train chatbots.

This development follows a copyright dispute initiated by complaints from leading news companies in France, including Agence France Presse, regarding online content. It also coincides with Google’s announcement of plans to establish an AI-dedicated hub in Paris in collaboration with the French government, aimed at supporting the country’s AI ambitions.

France has been actively pursuing AI initiatives, including hosting the new AI startup Mistral AI and its Mistral large language model. Microsoft has partnered with Mistral AI to make the Mistral LLM accessible on Azure AI Studio and Azure Machine Learning.