Canada Next to Force Google, Facebook to Pay for News

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Canada on Tuesday (April 5) announced its proposed legislation 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 is joining 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 U.K. 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.

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 copy. The difference is that the Australian law goes one or two steps further than other legislations like the European one. 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 in what terms.

However, Australia passed a law that operates in case negotiations between the tech giants and media companies fails. The legislation establishes an arbitration system that may make 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 should 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.

And perhaps one of the most recent examples and a last-minute effort to put into law a similar provision can be found in the European Digital Markets Act (DMA). In the last day of negotiations among EU institutions before adopting the final text of the DMA, some lawmakers pushed for an amendment that could have compelled gatekeepers to establish equitable terms and an arbitration process for the remuneration of news publishers. The amendment was ultimately rejected but some lawmakers still argue that the final text of the DMA would oblige gatekeepers to negotiate on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory conditions. Then, it will be the Commission that should decide the compliance of such conditions against the regulation.

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