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Google Hit $270M Fine in France With News Publishers

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In yet another twist in the ongoing battle between Google and France’s competition authority regarding copyright protections for news snippets, the Autorité de la Concurrence has levied a hefty fine of €250 million against the tech giant, which roughly translates to $270 million at current exchange rates.


The crux of the issue lies in It alleged disregard for previous commitments made with news publishers, particularly concerning the use of their content to train its generative AI model, Bard/Gemini. The competition watchdog found fault with Google for failing to notify news publishers of this use of their copyrighted content, a direct violation of its commitments aimed at ensuring fair payment negotiations with publishers for the reuse of their content.

This latest fine is just the latest chapter in a long-standing dispute that began with the European Union’s digital copyright reform in 2019. This reform extended copyright protections to news headlines and snippets, addressing concerns over news aggregators like It News, Discover, and the “Top Stories” feature on search results pages, which had been displaying news stories without compensating publishers.

Google initially attempted to circumvent this law by shutting down It News in France. However, this unilateral action was swiftly challenged by the competition authority, which deemed it an abuse of Google’s dominant market position. Subsequently, It was compelled to negotiate with local publishers over content reuse. In 2021, Google faced a $592 million fine after the competition authority found significant breaches in its negotiations with publishers and agencies.

Despite initially appealing the sanction, It eventually sought to settle the dispute, offering commitments to the Autorité, which were aimed at fostering fair negotiation practices with publishers. These commitments included sharing key information with publishers and engaging in fair negotiations.

Currently, Google has signed copyright agreements with numerous publishers in France, subject to the oversight of the Autorité, tightly regulating its business operations in this domain.

In response to the Autorité’s latest findings, It has chosen not to contest them, opting instead for a fast-tracked process and agreeing to pay the fine. However, the company’s managing director for news and publishing partnerships, Sulina Connal, expressed dissatisfaction with the fine’s proportionality, emphasizing Google’s desire to move forward and focus on fostering sustainable relationships with publishers.

The crux of the Autorité’s enforcement action revolves around It use of news publishers’ content for training its AI model, Bard/Gemini, without notifying the copyright holders or the authority. While Google has cited Article 4 of the EU Copyright Directive, which allows for certain exceptions for text and data mining, the Autorité argues that it remains undecided whether this exemption applies in this case. Additionally, Google’s failure to inform publishers of their content’s use for training Bard was deemed a breach of its commitment to the competition authority.

Looking ahead, the impending EU AI Act is poised to introduce stricter regulations governing AI development, including transparency requirements regarding the use of copyrighted content for training AI models. This forthcoming legislation may pave the way for news publishers to seek fair remuneration under EU copyright law for the use of their content in AI training.


In conclusion, Google’s latest fine underscores the complexities and challenges surrounding the intersection of technology, copyright law, and competition regulations. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly imperative for tech giants like Google to navigate these issues responsibly and transparently, ensuring equitable treatment for all stakeholders involved, including news publishers.


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