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France: Google fined €250m for IP breaches

March 20, 2024

French regulators have fined Google €250 million for breaching an agreement over paying media companies for reproducing their content online. The Competition Authority said it was fining the company for breaches linked to intellectual property rules related to news media publishers. The regulator also cited concerns about Google’s AI service.

It said Google’s AI-powered chatbot Bard – since rebranded as Gemini – was trained on content from publishers and news agencies without notifying them. It said the fine was for “failing to respect commitments made in 2022” and accused Google of not negotiating in “good faith” with news publishers on how much to compensate them for use of their content.

Google had pledged not to contest the facts as part of settlement proceedings, the watchdog said, adding the company also proposed a series of measures to remedy certain shortcomings.

To tackle misuse, the EU created a form of copyright called ‘neighbouring rights”’that allows print media to demand compensation for using their content. France has been a test case for the EU rules. In 2019, it was the first EU country to enact the directive on the publishing rights of media companies and news agencies, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content. After initial resistance, Google and Facebook both agreed to pay some French media for articles shown in web searches.

The case was triggered by complaints in 2019 from some of the country’s biggest news organisations representing French magazines and newspapers, as well as the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

In 2022, French regulators accepted commitments from Google to negotiate fairly with news organisations. Under the agreement, the tech company has to provide news groups with a transparent offer of payment within three months of receiving a copyright complaint. Now the watchdog said Google violated the terms of four out of seven commitments agreed in the 2022 settlement, including conducting negotiations with publishers in good faith and providing transparent information.

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