Australia Report Says Make Google and Fb Pay for Information | Enterprise Information

By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – The Australian Parliament will debate Google and Facebook paying for news after a Senate committee on Friday did not recommend changes to drafts of the world’s first such laws.

The Senate’s Economic Legislative Committee has examined the bill in parliament since it was introduced in December.

The Senators rejected the arguments put forward by Facebook and Google that the so-called media negotiation code, which would force the digital giants to negotiate payments to Australian news media for the news content that the platforms are linking to, was impractical.

However, the Committee also recognized that the legislation is risky and should be reviewed after one year.

“The Committee accepts that there is still a possibility that not all risks have been addressed and that the arbitration mechanism and other parts of the Code may need further refinement to work optimally,” the report said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said his department would review the law a year after it came into effect to “ensure that it is producing results that are consistent with the government’s political intentions”.

“The government expects all parties to continue to work constructively towards trade agreements in the spirit of cooperation and good faith encouraged by the Code,” he added.

Parliament is expected to examine the bill on Tuesday, and the Conservative government is hoping it will be passed in the next two-week session.

The passing of the law is guaranteed in the House of Representatives, where the government, unlike the Senate, holds the majority of the seats.

Google continues to hope for changes.

“We look forward to working with policy makers through the parliamentary process to address our concerns and achieve a code that works for everyone – publishers, digital platforms and Australian businesses and users,” said Google Director Lucinda Longcroft.

Google stepped up its campaign against the proposed bill, telling the committee last month that the platform would likely make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the code were introduced.

Google has not responded to a request from The Associated Press to explain how to exclude Australia from its search functionality.

Facebook has threatened to prevent its users from sharing Australian news.

Facebook said Friday it hoped Australia would legislate a “workable solution that really protects the long-term sustainability of the news industry”.

The administration of former President Donald Trump had also spoken out against the model and urged Australia to suspend all plans to complete the law.

“The US government is concerned that any attempt to legislate to regulate the competitive position of certain players in a rapidly evolving digital market to the clear disadvantage of two US companies can lead to harmful results,” said the US sales representative Daniel Bahar and Karl Ehlers wrote in a statement to the committee dated January 15 under the letterhead “Executive Office of the President”.

But Google rival Microsoft supports the law. Microsoft President Brad Smith on Friday urged the US to consider passing similar laws.

Google accused Microsoft, whose search engine Bing is the second most popular in Australia, of making false claims.

“Microsoft’s adoption of the Australian bill is not surprising. Obviously, they want to impose an unworkable levy on a rival and increase their market share,” said Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president.

The code proposed by Australia aims to get Google and Facebook to pay Australian media companies fairly for using news content that the tech giants obtain from news sites.

There are no plans to make smaller search engines like Bing pay to link users to Australian news, but the government hasn’t ruled out that option.

Google has been pressured by other authorities to pay for news. Last month, a contract was signed with a group of French publishers that paved the way for the company to make payments with digital copyright. As part of the agreement, Google will negotiate individual license agreements with newspapers. Payments are based on factors such as the daily published amount and monthly internet site traffic.

However, Google is opposed to the Australian plan as it has less control over how much it would have to pay. Under the Australian system, if an online platform and a news company cannot agree on a price for news, an arbitration tribunal will make a binding decision on payment.

Google announced last week that it had started paying seven Australian news websites on its own model, Google News Showcase. Google is paying participating publishers to deliver paywall content to News Showcase users through the model launched in October.

Google has achieved pay deals with more than 450 publications worldwide through News Showcase.

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