Report prepared by Célia Zolynski, professor at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, in collaboration with Karine Favro, professor of public law at the University of Haute-Alsace and Serena Villata, researcher at the CNRS.
As part of the mission entrusted to them in November 2021 by Olivier Japiot, President of the CSPLA (Conseil supérieur de la propriété littéraire et artistique (CSPLA), Célia Zolynski, professor at the Université Paris-Panthéon Sorbonne, in collaboration with Karine Favro, professor at the University of Haute-Alsace and Serena Villata, researcher at the CNRS, presented their report on the voice assistants and other conversational agents (such as Alexa, Djingo, Google Assistant, Siri and Sonos Voice Control).
Since entering the market, voice assistants have grown exponentially. Since the issues raised by these software applications, which offer oral dialogue with users, are particularly varied, the authors of the report have chosen to adopt an interdisciplinary approach.
After a detailed description of the types of voice assistants and other conversational agents and how they work, the report looks at the multiple issues they raise. Because of the difficulties of entering or expanding this market (major technological investments, etc.), it includes only a very small number of players. This concentration coupled with the practice of self-preference, whether in terms of equipment or content, questions competition law. Moreover, the combination of powerful intermediaries between content publishers and users raises questions of capture and distribution of value with regard to publishers who are ultimately in the contractual chain.
Finally, the legal regime of these systems and the resulting effects on the dissemination and diversity of cultural content is at the heart of the report. Indeed, the voice assistant ecosystem raises the question of the user’s role and freedom of choice. Self-preference and the unique response mechanism on which the functioning of voice assistants is based have the effect of restricting the exhibition of works and services.
In order to remedy this risk of confinement and to guarantee pluralism and diversity of cultural content, the report focuses on various devices (interoperability of systems, right to user configuration, etc.) and examines the obligations that the Digital Markets Act of 14 September 2022 imposes on access controllers.