Google fined for mass theft of content to build AI tool

robot_ai_cyborg 2Google has been slapped with a €250m (£213m) fine by the French competition authority, predominantly for using content from publishers and news agencies without their permission to train its Bard chatbot.

While this is the fourth decision issued by the Autorité de la Concurrence against Google’s practices, it is thought be to be one of the first issued in Europe to a tech giant over infringing copyright to build AI tools.

The watchdog opened its initial investigation in 2018 over claims that Google was not paying publishers and news agencies the remuneration due to them for the re-use of their protected content, which led to a number of interim measures in the form of injunctions.

But in April 2020, the regulator found that Google had not complied with these injunctions and imposed a fine of €500m (£426m), as well as ordering the tech giant to comply, under penalty payment, with the initial injunctions.

Subsequently, in June 2022, the Autorité accepted, for a period of five years, the commitments proposed by Google to put an end to the competition concerns expressed.

But the watchdog said Google has violated the terms of four out of seven commitments agreed in that settlement, including conducting negotiations with publishers in good faith and providing transparent information.

The creation of Google’s AI chatbot Bard, launched last year and now rebranded Gemini, appears to have exacerbated the issue.

The regulator said: “Subsequently, Google linked the use of the content concerned by its artificial intelligence service to the display of protected content”, adding that this had hindered the ability of publishers and press agencies to negotiate fair prices.

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

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