Australia passes law requiring companies to pay for news
Facebook and Google will have to pay Australian media to use their content, according to new legislation approved this Thursday in that country, and that it is closely followed around the world in the battle for the survival of the traditional press.
The law was passed after Facebook and Google reached agreements to avoid being subjected to binding arbitration. It clears the way for these two digital behemoths to invest tens of millions of dollars in local content deals.
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This law could serve as a model to resolve conflicts between technology giants and global regulators in order to balance the relationship between traditional media – in financial distress – and the giants that dominate the internet and capture a large part of the advertising revenue.
The government stated that the law will guarantee that press companies “receive fair remuneration for the content they generate, thus helping to maintain public interest journalism in Australia. ”
Google, for its part, had already agreed to pay “significant sums” in exchange for content from Rupert Murdoch’s press group News Corp., favorable to the new law.
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More entrenched in its position of refusing to pay, Facebook initially confronted the Australian authorities and blocked for a time the publication of links to local or international media news. The owner of Instagram and WhatsApp ended up backtracking, with a last-minute agreement with the authorities.
Both Google and Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s group, have said that will invest 1,000 million dollars each in news content for the next three years.
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Google will pay for news items featured in its new Google News Showcase tool, and Facebook will pay vendors featured in its News product, which it will launch in Australia this year. In the case of Facebook, the 1 billion announced are in addition to the 600 million dollars injected into the media since 2018.
The whole world is closely following the Australian initiative. If Google and Facebook seem to have reached a solution in that country, this does not mean the end of their problems. The European Union, Canada and other countries also hope to regulate the sector.
“There is no doubt that Australia is waging a proxy battle for the whole planet,” Australian Finance Minister Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday.
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The giants of the digital sector did not want negotiations with the media in Australia to be mandatory and for an independent referee to rule in the event of a conflict. They feared a precedent that threatened their economic model.
According to Australian competition authorities, Google captures 53% of advertising in the country and Facebook 28%, while the rest is shared by other market players, such as press groups, insufficient to finance quality journalism .
The press crisis was exacerbated by the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In Australia, dozens of newspapers have closed and hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs.
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