Australia passed a new law on Thursday, 25th of February 2021, which will compel Facebook, Google and other tech companies to pay for news content.
Josh Frydenberg; Federal Australian Treasurer and member of the parliament, said in a statement that the new law ‘will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate’. He also added that ‘this legislation will help level the playing field and see Australian news media businesses paid for generating original content’.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair revealed; ‘the purpose of the code is to address the market power that clearly Google and Facebook have. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals.
The new law is called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, and under this code, Google and Facebook are required to negotiate licensing agreements with publishers for the news articles that appear on Google search and Facebook’s feed. This led to opposition from Facebook and Google.
In protest, Facebook shut down news pages in Australia for five days. Facebook says it will lift the ban on sharing and accessing news in Australia before the weekend after the country made some changes to the code, including a provision that ‘must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses’.
Google, in a bid to get ahead of the new law, has begun signing commercial agreements with the Nine Entertainment and Seven west; media giants in Australia, which alongside Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, pushed for the signing into law the now News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. Google’s deal with Nine Entertainment is reported to be worth over AU$30 ($23 million). Reportedly, Google’s deal with Seven Weather is worth the same amount.
Australia’s new law has set the stage for alike actions to be carried out in other countries. Countries like the United States, Canada, as well as the European Union are facing increasing pressure to enact similar laws. It wouldn’t be surprising to see what’s happening in Australia happen in other countries. More so, the Canadian government has mentioned its plans to introduce legislation in the approaching months.