France Fines Google Amid Dispute with News Publishers

French regulators on Wednesday said Google failed to notify news publishers that it was using their articles to train its artificial intelligence algorithms, part of a wider ruling against the company for its negotiating practices with media outlets.

The disclosure by the French competition authority was part of a fine of 250 million euros, or about $270 million, for failing to negotiate fair licensing deals with media companies to publish article links in search results. Officials also criticized the company for using news articles to train its A.I. chatbot, now called Gemini, without telling media companies or giving them a method to prevent their content from being used until September of last year.

Google has been entangled in a long-running dispute with publishers about how much to pay for displaying news content in search results and other services. Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, has also struggled with government efforts to force compensation for publishers in Australia and Canada.

The debate has taken on new urgency as media outlets object to the use of their articles to train A.I. systems. The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft in December, claiming copyright infringement of news content related to A.I. systems.

French regulators said legal questions about the fair use of news content to train A.I. applications had “not yet been settled.” Still, the authorities said, Google violated a past deal with the government by “failing to inform publishers of the use of their content for their Bard software,” using the former name of Google’s A.I. chatbot.

French authorities have sided with local publishers who argue that Google and other large technology companies have unfairly profited from their content without fair payment. In 2022, regulators fined Google €500 million and ordered it to negotiate licensing deals with French publishers.

Regulators said Google did not negotiate in good faith with publishers because it failed to share necessary information with a monitor assigned to the deal talks. Authorities said Google used “opaque” data when determining what to pay publishers and did not fully account for all the different ways the company was making money from content produced by media outlets.

Google said the fine was “not proportionate to issues raised” by the regulator, but agreed to the penalty announced on Wednesday.

“We have compromised because it is time to turn the page and, as our numerous agreements with publishers prove, we want to focus on sustainable approaches in order to connect internet users with quality content and work constructively with publishers,” the company said in a statement.

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