Beijing-For 20 years, media outlets around the world have complained that Internet companies are getting rich at their expense and selling ads linked to their reports without sharing their income.
Australia is now joining France and other governments to urge Google, Facebook and other internet giants to pay. It may direct more money to the news industry, which is reducing coverage as income declines. But it also causes clashes with some of the biggest names in the tech industry.
Google, a division of Alphabet Inc., has announced a deal to pay Australian publishers, and Facebook announced Thursday that it has blocked Australian users from viewing and sharing news.
What’s happening in Australia?
Faced with a bill that would force Internet companies to pay news organizations, Google has announced a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Seven West Media. No financial details have been released. Australian Broadcasting Corporation is in negotiations.
According to finance officer Josh Frydenberg, Google accounts for 53% of Australia’s online advertising revenue and Facebook accounts for 23%.
Google has threatened to make search engines unavailable in Australia in response to a law that creates a panel for pricing news.
Facebook responded Thursday by blocking users from accessing and sharing Australian news. Facebook said the proposed law “ignores reality” in its relationship with publishers who “share news content” using the service. That was despite Frydenberg’s saying that Google and Facebook “want to conclude these commercial arrangements” this week.
What’s happening in other countries?
Australia’s proposed law is the first of its kind, but other governments are also pressing Google, Facebook and other internet companies to pay the press and other publishers for the material.
In Europe, Google had to negotiate with a French publisher after last year’s court upheld an order in the 2019 European Union Copyright Directive that such an agreement was necessary.
France was the first government to enforce this rule, but the decision suggests that Google, Facebook and other businesses will face similar requirements in other parts of the 27-country trade bloc.
A group of Google and French publishers have announced a framework agreement for American companies to negotiate license agreements with individual publishers. The company deals with retailers such as the newspaper Le Monde and the weekly magazine l’Obs.
Last year, Facebook announced that it would pay headlines to US news organizations such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today. No financial details have been released. In Spain, Google shut down its news website after a 2014 law required payments to publishers.
Why is this important?
Trends in Australia and Europe suggest that the financial balance between multi-billion dollar Internet companies and the press may be changing.
Australia responds to complaints that Internet companies need to share advertising and other revenue related to news reports, magazine articles and other content that appear on their websites or are shared by users. ..
The government acted after competition regulators attempted to negotiate a voluntary payment plan with Google and failed. The proposed law will create a panel for making binding decisions about the price of news reports and help individual publishers become more bargaining with global Internet companies.
What does this mean for the general public?
Google’s agreement represents a new source of revenue for news outfits, but it’s unclear if it will lead to more coverage for readers, viewers and audiences.
The Union for Australian Journalists is calling on media companies to ensure that their online income is used to collect news.
“Money from these transactions needs to reach the newsroom, not the conference room,” said Marcus Strom, president of the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance. “We urge you to insist on transparency about how these funds will be used.”
In the meantime, access can be compromised from time to time. Facebook’s move on Thursday first blocked Australian commercial and government communications pages.
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