Google fined €250m for using journalists’ work without paying them

  • Post last modified:March 21, 2024
  • Reading time:3 mins read

French regulators said on Wednesday 20 March they were fining Google €250m for breaching commitments on paying media companies for reproducing their content online and for using their material for its AI chatbot – without telling them.

Google: pay up, say journalists – and the regulator agrees

Google had made commitments in 2022 to negotiate fairly with news organisations in France. This was a year after the Competition Authority hit the US technology giant with a €500m fine over the long-running dispute.

Organisations representing French magazines and newspapers – as well as Agence France-Presse (AFP) – had lodged a case with the regulator in 2019.

Under its commitments, the US tech giant has to provide news groups with a transparent offer of payment within three months of receiving a copyright complaint. However, the regulator said on 20 March it was imposing the new fine on Google for “failing to respect commitments made in 2022” and not negotiating in “good faith” with news publishers.

US tech giant says ‘blah, blah, blah’

The regulator said Google also used content from press agencies to train its AI platform Bard (now known as Gemini), without notifying them or the authority. It also failed to provide publishers and news agencies a technical solution allowing them to object to the use of their content. The French regulator said this ended up “hindering” their ability to negotiate remuneration.

It said Google had agreed to “not dispute the facts” as part of the settlement process. The US tech giant also proposed “a series of corrective measures” in response to the failings identified by the authority.

In a statement, Google said the fine was disproportionate and did not:

sufficiently take into account the efforts we have made to answer and resolve the concerns raised – in an environment where it’s very hard to set a course because we can’t predict which way the wind will blow next.

We’ve settled because it’s time to move on.

Google: plagiarising across Europe

The EU created in 2019 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 rules. After initial resistance Google and Facebook both agreed to pay some French media for articles shown in web searches.

Other EU countries have also challenged Google over news content.

Spain’s competition watchdog launched an investigation into Google last year for alleged anti-competitive practices affecting news agencies and press publications.

But in 2022, Germany’s antitrust regulator shelved an investigation into Google’s News Showcase service, after the tech giant made “important adjustments” to ease competition concerns.

Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Google – screengrab

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