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On Tuesday, the Canadian federal government passed a law that requires tech companies to pay news publishers for using their content on their different platforms.
The Online News Act, or House of Commons bill C-18, would require tech giants like Google and Facebook, as well as other online platforms that copy or share news content, to pay news agencies or go through arbitration led by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Companies like Facebook, Google, and other digital platforms that have “a bargaining imbalance with news organizations” would have to make “fair commercial agreements” with newspapers, news magazines, online news organizations, private and public broadcasters, and non-Canadian news media that meet certain criteria.
Now, these content providers will be able to make deals with big tech companies without the government getting in the way.
According to a guidebook that was given to reporters, the money that these tech giants will have to pay must be used to pay for the creation of news content to make sure that the “Canadian news ecosystem” stays alive.
The dominance of companies like Facebook and Google, which have eaten up more than 80% of Canada’s online ad revenue, has been especially bad for news agencies. Ad revenue is what keeps news agencies going, and now that classified ads and print subscriptions are no longer for sale, other news agencies are weaker.
Pablo Rodriguez, Canada’s minister of culture, said that Canada’s news agencies should be paid enough for helping Google and Facebook get more users.
Google and Facebook use news content on their websites “without really having to pay for it.” “We want to fix that market imbalance with this bill,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also said that the companies had been told about the proposed law and that they were both looking into it. They have agreed to put $1 billion each into journalism around the world over the next three years.
The Australian model is being used to keep Big Tech in check in Canada. Australia is the first country to really make big tech pay for using news content from outside sources.
Jamie Irving, chairman of News Media Canada and vice president of Brunswick News, a newspaper chain based in New Brunswick, was happy about the change. He said that the law would “level the playing field” and “give Canada’s news publishers a fair shot” without needing more money from taxpayers.
Several groups, though, have said that the proposed law hurts press freedom and will make more news agencies reliant on deals that the CRTC makes with big tech companies.
Michael Geist, a Canada research chair in internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, called this “nothing less than a government-backed shakedown.” He said it could hurt competition and investment in Canadian media, make it harder for the press to be independent, and make people more dependent on big tech.
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