Google fined over AI intellectual property breach

Aušra Mažutavičienė
Written by
Aušra Mažutavičienė
April 2, 2024

1. Google fined by the French authorities

Recently, Google was fined €250 million by the French competition authority for breaches linked to intellectual property rules related to news media publishers.

The competition authority found that Google’s AI-powered chatbot "Bard" (which was later renamed to "Gemini") was trained on content from publishers and news agencies in violation of their agreement. The case was triggered by complaints in 2019 from some of the country’s biggest news organisations representing French publishers.

In 2022, French regulators accepted commitments from Google to negotiate fairly with the news organisations. Under this agreement, Google had to provide publishers with a transparent offer of payment within three months of receiving a copyright complaint. However, the French authorities found that Google violated 4 out of 7 commitments agreed in the 2022 settlement, including negotiating with publishers in good faith and providing transparent information.

What does this mean?

The fine comes as many publishers seek to limit the scraping - that is, automatic collection of data - by AI services of their online content without their consent or fair compensation.

AI technologies, on the other hand, seek a larger degree of clarity. "We - and others - need more clarity on whom we are paying for what", as Google said in its blog post.

However, this isn’t the first time that AI and copyright law have clashed with each other.

2. The New York Times sues OpenAI

In 2023, The New York Times sued Google rivals Microsoft and OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, accusing them of using millions of the newspaper's articles without permission to train chatbots.

In February this year, OpenAI argued that ChatGPT “is not in any way a substitute for a subscription to The New York Times” and filed a motion in federal court that seeks to dismiss key elements of the lawsuit brought by The New York Times Company.

Overall, the main defense by AI companies in copyright cases is that of “fair use”. However, what’s considered "fair" for an AI tech giant may not necessarily be fair for the authors or creators of the material used