Australia Finalises Plan For Google, Facebook To Pay Publishers For News

Australia is readying a new law to force big name tech firms to pay local publishers for any news content they utilise on their respective platforms.

The move is being strongly opposed by Google and Facebook, despite Australia touting the new law which is being submitted to parliament this week, as a way to protect independent journalism.

It comes after Google recently announced the ‘News Showcase’ scheme, which would see news publishers in Australia, Brazil, and Germany starting to be compensated for the news they produce.

News disagreement

CEO Sundar Pichai pledged $1 billion (£778m) over three years to the scheme, which will be rolled out worldwide.

Google last month additionally signed copyright agreements with six French newspapers and magazines, including Le Monde and Le Figaro.

However this Google scheme to compensate news publishers will be ‘paused’ in Australia, due its to disagreement with this new Australian law change.

Facebook on the other hand in September bluntly warned Aussie users it will prevent them sharing local and international news, if Australia presses ahead with this.

Facebook has previously labelled the Aussie law as ‘bad legislation’ and said the law “defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.”

Google has also previously expressed its opposition to this Australia legislation and used its search web page in Australia to warn local users that it would harm their ability to search.

But Australia has not backed down, with the country’s top antitrust regulator, ACCC Chair Rod Sims, saying recently that it was tech firms call if they choose not to comply.

Australian law

And now Reuters has reported that Australia has finalised plans on Tuesday to make tech firms pay its local media outlets for news content.

Under laws to go to parliament this week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Big Tech firms must negotiate payments for content that appears on their platforms with local publishers and broadcasters.

If they can’t strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide for them.

“This is a huge reform, this is a world first, and the world is watching what happens here in Australia,” Frydenberg was quoted as telling reporters in the capital Canberra.

“Our legislation will help ensure that the rules of the digital world mirror the rules of the physical world … and ultimately sustain our media landscape,” he added.

According to Reuters, Facebook’s Will Easton now said the firm would review the legislation and “engage through the upcoming parliamentary process with the goal of landing on a workable framework to support Australia’s news ecosystem”.

A representative for Google reportedly declined to comment, saying the company had yet to see the final version of the proposed law.

The Australian move comes after journalism around the world has suffered over the past few decades, as advertising revenue has shifted away from publisher coffers, and into the hands of Google, Facebook and the like.

This has effectively starved newsrooms of their main revenue stream, which in turn has forced widespread shutdowns and job losses in the journalism sector.

But regulators are starting to test their power to rein in the two mega-corporations, which take more than four-fifths of Australian online advertising spending between them, Frydenberg reportedly noted.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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