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Tech giants down under will be forced to pay for news content
Pic: Shutterstock

22 Apr 2020 / technology Print

Tech firms 'Down Under' will be forced to pay for news

The Australian Government has moved to force tech giants Google and Facebook to pay for news content in Australia, using company law rather than copyright law, as has been the case in Europe

The news comes as advertising revenue collapses in the news media sector, causing onward pressure on jobs and livelihoods. The government is moving to shore up news publication as titles close down in a seized-up economy.

Draft rules

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is drawing up draft rules to force the digital behemoths to pay fairly for the news content they aggregate on their sites, which is lifted from mainstream news publications.

The sums involved are believed to be in the millions of Australian dollars.

Michael Miller of News Corp Australia said: “We are looking for a fair payment and at the same time a substantial payment.”

ACCC spokesman Josh Frydenberg said he believed that Australia could succeed in making Google and Facebook pay for content, despite European countries’ failure to do so.

Threats

“We won’t bow to their threats … we understand the challenge that we face. This is a big mountain to climb. These are big companies that we are dealing with, but there is also so much at stake, so we’re prepared for this fight,” he said.

Negotiations on a voluntary payment code for content fell down on the central issue of pricing.

Neither side could agree on “this key issue of payment for content”, Frydenberg said.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Australia would rely on competition law rather than copyright law in the battle against tech giants.

Disappointed

Google and Facebook said they were disappointed by the news and had been working to an agreed deadline to reach a deal with news publishers.

Facebook managing director for Australia and New Zealand Will Easton said: “COVID-19 has impacted every business and industry across the country, including publishers, which is why we announced a new, global investment to support news organisations at a time when advertising revenue is declining.”

Investment

Facebook announced a $100 million investment in the news industry in March.

A Google statement said: “We have sought to work constructively with industry, the ACCC and government to develop a code of conduct, and we will continue to do so in the revised process set out by the government today.”

Platform

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said he didn’t expect Google to shut down its Australian news platform rather than pay for content as it had done in Spain.

“Around 10% of search results are media stories.

"This will seriously affect the usefulness, for example, of Google Search, so I think we have to understand that there’s value both ways here and I think it will be hard for Google and Facebook just to say we won’t have any contact with news media at all,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Google holds 47% of the online advertising market, excluding classified, in Australia, while Facebook nets 24%.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland