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Google makes changes to Android in India after antitrust setbacks

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Google said on Wednesday it will allow device makers in India to license its individual apps for pre-installation and give an option to users to choose their default search engine, announcing sweeping changes to how it promotes its Android system. The move comes after the country s Supreme Court upheld stringent antitrust directives last week, rejecting a Google challenge against a Competition Commission of India ruling that said the company abused its market position, ordering it to change how it markets its Android system in a key growth market. Google also made some changes related to its in-app billing system, which was at the centre of another Indian antitrust decision recently where the company was found engaging in anti-competitive practices by restricting the use of third-party billing or payment processing services. "Implementation of these changes across the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work at our end and, in many cases, significant efforts from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers," Google said in a blog post. Google had been concerned about India s Android decision as the directives were seen as more sweeping than those imposed in the European Commission s landmark 2018 ruling against the operating system. About 97% of 600 million smartphones in India run on Android, while in Europe, the system accounts for 75% of the 550 million smartphones, according to Counterpoint Research estimates. LOWER TRIBUNAL APPEAL The CCI ruled in October that Google, owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), exploited its dominant position in Android and told it to remove restrictions on device makers, including those related to pre-installation of apps and ensuring exclusivity of its search. It also fined Google $161 million. Hoping to block the implementation of the CCI directives, Google had approached the Supreme Court, warning that growth of its Android ecosystem will stall. It said it would be forced to alter arrangements with more than 1,100 device manufacturers and thousands of app developers if the directives kick in. But the Supreme Court refused to block the directives as Google sought. The court had also said a lower tribunal - where Google first challenged the Android directives - can continue to hear the company s appeal and must rule by March 31. "We continue to respectfully appeal certain aspects of the CCI’s decisions," Google said. The US search giant also said it is updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible variants of Android. In Europe, Google was fined for putting in place what the Commission called unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device makers. Google is still challenging the record $4.3 billion fine in that case. Regarding in-app billing, Google said it will start offering users choice billing to all apps and games starting next month which will help developers offer an option to choose alternative systems alongside Google s when purchasing in-app digital content.

Google said on Wednesday it will allow device makers in India to license its individual apps for pre-installation and give an option to users to choose their default search engine, announcing sweeping changes to how it promotes its Android system.

The move comes after the country s Supreme Court upheld stringent antitrust directives last week, rejecting a Google challenge against a Competition Commission of India ruling that said the company abused its market position, ordering it to change how it markets its Android system in a key growth market.

Google also made some changes related to its in-app billing system, which was at the centre of another Indian antitrust decision recently where the company was found engaging in anti-competitive practices by restricting the use of third-party billing or payment processing services.

“Implementation of these changes across the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work at our end and, in many cases, significant efforts from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers,” Google said in a blog post.

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Google had been concerned about India s Android decision as the directives were seen as more sweeping than those imposed in the European Commission s landmark 2018 ruling against the operating system.

About 97% of 600 million smartphones in India run on Android, while in Europe, the system accounts for 75% of the 550 million smartphones, according to Counterpoint Research estimates.

LOWER TRIBUNAL APPEAL

The CCI ruled in October that Google, owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), exploited its dominant position in Android and told it to remove restrictions on device makers, including those related to pre-installation of apps and ensuring exclusivity of its search. It also fined Google $161 million.

Hoping to block the implementation of the CCI directives, Google had approached the Supreme Court, warning that growth of its Android ecosystem will stall. It said it would be forced to alter arrangements with more than 1,100 device manufacturers and thousands of app developers if the directives kick in.

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But the Supreme Court refused to block the directives as Google sought. The court had also said a lower tribunal – where Google first challenged the Android directives – can continue to hear the company s appeal and must rule by March 31.

“We continue to respectfully appeal certain aspects of the CCI’s decisions,” Google said.

The US search giant also said it is updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible variants of Android.

In Europe, Google was fined for putting in place what the Commission called unlawful restrictions on Android mobile device makers. Google is still challenging the record $4.3 billion fine in that case.

Regarding in-app billing, Google said it will start offering users choice billing to all apps and games starting next month which will help developers offer an option to choose alternative systems alongside Google s when purchasing in-app digital content.

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A former OpenAI leader says safety has ‘taken a backseat to shiny products’ at the AI company

A former OpenAI leader says safety has ‘taken a backseat to shiny products’ at the AI company

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A former OpenAI leader says safety has 'taken a backseat to shiny products' at the AI company

A former OpenAI leader who resigned from the company earlier this week said Friday that safety has “taken a backseat to shiny products” at the influential artificial intelligence company.

Jan Leike, who ran OpenAI’s “Superalignment” team alongside a company co-founder who also resigned this week, wrote in a series of posts on the social media platform X that he joined the San Francisco-based company because he thought it would be the best place to do AI research.

“However, I have been disagreeing with OpenAI leadership about the company’s core priorities for quite some time, until we finally reached a breaking point,” wrote Leike, whose last day was Thursday.

An AI researcher by training, Leike said he believes there should be more focus on preparing for the next generation of AI models, including on things like safety and analyzing the societal impacts of such technologies.

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He said building “smarter-than-human machines is an inherently dangerous endeavor” and that the company “is shouldering an enormous responsibility on behalf of all of humanity.”

“OpenAI must become a safety-first AGI company,” wrote Leike, using the abbreviated version of artificial general intelligence, a futuristic vision of machines that are as broadly smart as humans or at least can do many things as well as people can.

Open AI CEO Sam Altman wrote in a reply to Leike’s posts that he was “super appreciative” of Leike’s contributions to the company was “very sad to see him leave.”

Leike is “right we have a lot more to do; we are committed to doing it,” Altman said, pledging to write a longer post on the subject in the coming days.

The company also confirmed Friday that it had disbanded Leike’s Superalignment team, which was launched last year to focus on AI risks, and is integrating the team’s members across its research efforts.

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Leike’s resignation came after OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said Tuesday that he was leaving the company after nearly a decade.

Sutskever was one of four board members last fall who voted to push out Altman — only to quickly reinstate him. It was Sutskever who told Altman last November that he was being fired, but he later said he regretted doing so.

Sutskever said he is working on a new project that’s meaningful to him without offering additional details.

He will be replaced by Jakub Pachocki as chief scientist. Altman called Pachocki “also easily one of the greatest minds of our generation” and said he is “very confident he will lead us to make rapid and safe progress towards our mission of ensuring that AGI benefits everyone.”

On Monday, OpenAI showed off the latest update to its artificial intelligence m

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US, TikTok seek fast-track schedule, ruling by Dec. 6 on potential ban

US, TikTok seek fast-track schedule, ruling by Dec. 6 on potential ban

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US, TikTok seek fast-track schedule, ruling by Dec. 6 on potential ban

The U.S. Justice Department and TikTok on Friday asked a U.S. appeals court to set a fast-track schedule to consider the legal challenges to a new law requiring China-based ByteDance to divest TikTok’s U.S. assets by Jan. 19 or face a ban.

TikTok, ByteDance and a group of TikTok content creators joined with the Justice Department in asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to rule by Dec. 6 to be able to seek review from the Supreme Court if needed before the U.S. deadline. 

On Tuesday, a group of TikTok creators filed suit to block the law that could ban the app used by 170 million Americans, saying it has had “a profound effect on American life.”

Last week, TikTok and parent company ByteDance filed a similar lawsuit, arguing that the law violates the U.S. Constitution on a number of grounds including running afoul of First Amendment free speech protections.

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“In light of the large number of users of the TikTok platform, the public at large has a significant interest in the prompt disposition of this matter,” the U.S. Justice Department and TikTok petitioners said.

TikTok said with a fast-track schedule it believes the legal challenge can be resolved without it needing to request
emergency preliminary injunctive relief.

The law, signed by President Joe Biden on April 24, gives ByteDance until Jan. 19 to sell TikTok or face a ban. The White House says it wants to see Chinese-based ownership ended on national security grounds, but not a ban on TikTok.

The parties asked the court to set the case for oral arguments as soon as practical during the September case calendar. The Justice Department said it may file classified material to support the national security justifications in secret with the court.

Earlier this week the Justice Department said the TikTok law “addresses critical national security concerns in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations.”

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The law prohibits app stores like Apple and Alphabet’s Google from offering TikTok and bars internet hosting services from supporting TikTok unless ByteDance divests TikTok.

Driven by worries among U.S. lawmakers that China could access data on Americans or spy on them with the app, the measure was passed overwhelmingly in Congress just weeks after being introduced.

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Spotify sued over alleged unpaid royalties

Spotify sued over alleged unpaid royalties

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Spotify sued over alleged unpaid royalties

Music streaming giant Spotify has been sued in a US federal court for allegedly underpaying songwriters, composers and publishers by tens of millions of dollars.

The lawsuit against Spotify USA was filed in New York on Thursday by the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), a non-profit that collects and distributes royalties owed from music streaming services.

The suit alleges that Spotify on March 1, without advance notice, reclassified its paid subscription services, resulting in a nearly 50 percent reduction in royalty payments to MLC.

“The financial consequences of Spotify’s failure to meet its statutory obligations are enormous for Songwriters and Music Publishers,” MLC said.

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“If unchecked, the impact on Songwriters and Music Publishers of Spotify’s unlawful underreporting could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

According to MLC, Spotify reclassified its Premium Individual, Duo and Family subscription streaming plans as Bundled Subscription Offerings because they now include audiobooks.

Royalties paid on bundled services are significantly less. MLC said Premium subscribers already had access to audiobooks and “nothing has been bundled with it.”

“Premium is exactly the same service that Spotify offered to its subscribers before the launch of Audiobooks Access,” it said. In a statement, Spotify said the lawsuit “concerns terms that publishers and streaming services agreed to and celebrated years ago.”

Spotify said it paid a “record amount” in royalties last year and “is on track to pay out an even larger amount in 2024.” “We look forward to a swift resolution of this matter,” the Swedish company said.

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In February, Spotify said it paid $9 billion to musicians and publishers last year, about half of which went to independent artists. 

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