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Canada Will Force Google, Facebook To Pay For News

 |  April 7, 2022

Canada’s government announced a new legislative proposal on Tuesday (April 5) that would compel platforms like Facebook and Google to negotiate with news publishers and pay them for using their content.

By enacting this new legislation, Canada joins other countries, including Australia, France and Spain, that require Big Tech to negotiate with news publishers and pay for their content. Other countries like the UK could adopt soon similar legislation.

Under the new “Online News Act” firms like Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Facebook parent Meta, would be required to pay Canadian media publishers for permitting connections to news content on their platforms. Canadian publishers have long lobbied the government for such a move, claiming that the advertising revenue that used to be the lifeblood of their operations has disproportionately migrated to global web behemoths.

The proposed legislation, according to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, would be comparable to Australia’s law, but would include public reporting requirements and give an independent committee, rather than the minister, the power to choose which enterprises are eligible for payments.

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Australia was one of the first countries to adopt a law forcing Alphabet and Meta to pay media companies for content on their platforms, and it has been used by other countries as a model to follow. However, the Australian law goes somewhat further than other legislations, including Europe’s. For instance, in European countries like in France or Spain, Alphabet and Meta can negotiate with individual publishers, but it is up to the parties to reach an agreement and set the terms.

In contrast, Australia’s law kicks in only when negotiations between the tech giants and media companies fail. The legislation establishes an arbitration system that may impose binding rulings on the prices Google and Facebook must pay news publishers for content hosted on their platforms. Additionally, before updating algorithms that have an influence on traffic to news websites, the platforms are required give at least 14 days’ notice. Last, if any corporation violates non-discrimination terms, financial penalties may be applied.

The Canadian law seeks to replicate this model, but if negotiations between platforms and news publishers fail, a binding arbitration process will determine the compensation, rather than the government. The new law would exclude YouTube as this fall under the country’s broadcasting laws. The law will not apply either to Apple News that already license articles from publishers.

More countries around the world are trying to “level the playing field” between Big Tech and media companies. The U.K. announced in January that it is drawing up laws to require Alphabet and Meta to pay newspapers and media for their stories. Similar to the Canadian law, an independent arbitrator would step in to set a fair price if an agreement cannot be reached.

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