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        Google hit with fine for breaching French news deal

        By EARLE GALE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-22 09:34
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        FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is seen on the Google house at CES 2024, an annual consumer electronics trade show, in Las Vegas, Nevada, US January 10, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

        The United States technology giant Google has been ordered to pay a 250-million-euro ($272-million) fine for breaching an agreement to pay media companies for news content it reuses.

        The fine, which France's competition regulator — the Autorite de la Concurrence — announced on Wednesday, was for breaches of an agreement related to the European Union's intellectual property rules.

        The regulator said the punishment was specifically because the company had been "failing to respect commitments made in 2022" and had not been negotiating with news publishers in "good faith".

        It said Google's artificial intelligence-powered chatbot Bard, which has since been renamed Gemini, was trained with the help of news content harvested from news agencies without their knowledge, or without any form of payment being made.

        Google accepted the facts and set out a series of steps it will take to remedy the situation, the Autorite de la Concurrence added.

        The case was the latest chapter in a copyright dispute between online platforms and news organizations that was essentially resolved in 2022, when Google was ordered to change the way it operated and pay a 500-million-euro fine for infringing news organizations' copyright.

        Wednesday's additional fine was needed, the regulator said, because Google had subsequently violated four of the seven commitments it made in the earlier settlement when it used news content to train its AI app.

        "Google linked the use of the content concerned by its artificial intelligence service to the display of protected content," the regulator said.

        Google responded by saying it was "the first and only platform to have signed a significant number of licensing agreements with 280 French news publishers" under the European copyright directive, covering 450 publications and through which it was required to pay publishers "tens of millions of euros a year".

        "Despite this progress, the French competition authority … imposed a 250-million-euro fine on Google for how we have conducted those negotiations," the company said. "They also insisted on changes to how we negotiate, which we have agreed to as part of a settlement of a long-running case."

        Google said it decided to settle the case quickly, instead of fighting it through the courts, because it was "time to move on".

        The company insisted its "many agreements with publishers" show it is sincere in seeking sustainable ways to ensure online users can easily access a wide range of news content.

        The fine comes against the backdrop of news organizations around the world attempting to use the courts to limit the extent that AI apps automatically collect stories and reuse them without permission and without making payment.

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