Facebook Accused Of Using Content Of Three Australian Publishers

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Dustup down under, as three Australian publishers allege Facebook used content for its news service without their permission

Facebook’s activities in Australia are once again in the spotlight, after three local publishers allege it used their content without permission for its recently relaunched news serivce.

Facebook had last week begun to pay publishers in Australia for their content for its News service, after it had already struck deals with News Corp and Seven West earlier in the year.

It has also signed deals with publishers for news content in other parts of the world.

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Media bargaining law

As part of the background to all of this, it should be remembered that Australia’s parliament in February had passed a controversial law requiring large tech firms (such as Facebook and Google) to pay news organisations for publishing links to their content.

As a result, the ‘media bargaining law’ attracted a lot of criticism from Facebook and Google (as well as the US government), with Google threatening to pull its search and other services out of Australia.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, had warned the Australian law could make the internet as we know it “unworkable.”

When Australia went ahead and voted to pass the law, Facebook banned the sharing of news content on its platforms in the country for a time, before restarting it after the Australian government agreed to change parts of the law, with four amendments to the legislation.

That last-minute change included removing a key provision that would have forced tech companies into arbitration, giving them more flexibility over the deals they choose to strike.

The row between the Australian government and Google/Facebook was closely followed around the world, as countries including the US and the UK consider similar laws aimed at protecting their domestic media.

Facebook in February had announced it would invest $1 billion for content from news publishers, for its news service.

Publisher complaint

Now Reuters has reported that three Australian publishers of lifestyle content say Facebook used their articles on its just-launched news service, after refusing to negotiate licensing deals with them.

The three Australian publishers accuse Facebook of unfairly taking their content, and also said that Australia’s tough new internet law failed to protect them.

There have been some reports in the Aussie media previously that Facebook has been refusing to engage with smaller Australian publishers.

Earlier this month the Sydney Morning Herald reported that popular lifestyle websites Broadsheet Media, The Urban List and Concrete Playground had claimed they could be forced to consolidate, after Facebook shut down requests for funding to support their journalism.

They said Facebook did not give a reason for that decision, but it was speculated the tech company did not consider the independent media companies to be news outlets.