The legislation that has been proposed is currently in front of the parliament and would force these digital platforms to negotiate with news companies for a suitable payment for using their content. It also mentions that an arbiter would be put in place to “ultimately decide the payment amount if no agreement can be reached.”
Google delivered the ultimatum to the Australian government on Friday, January 22, saying this news code is “untenable” and would set a “dangerous precedent” for paying for links.“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia. Withdrawing our services from Australia is the last thing that Google want to have happen, especially when there is another way forward,” Google’s Australian managing director Mel Silva said.
Silva mentioned that Google is willing to make this situation “workable” if certain changes were made to the code, and that Google “was keen to enter into agreements with media companies to pay for content, pointing out around 450 deals have been made with media companies around the world.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to this statement by Google by firmly saying the government will not respond to threats.
“Let me be clear. Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our parliament. It’s done by our government. And that’s how things work here in Australia and people who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.” Morrison said.
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Facebook, on the other hand, mentioned that news articles make up under 5% of what the average user sees on their feeds, and that “no commercial benefit was gained by Facebook on its users posting fake news.”
Facebook has proposed that digital platforms like Facebook be given six months’ grace to negotiate deals with these news companies directly before “being hit with the ‘big stick’ of the mandatory code.”
Australia’s competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, developed this particular code. Itts chair, Rod Sims, has said that “what was being lost in the debate was the code was not simply a requirement for Google and Facebook to pay per click for news articles.”
“Discussions we are aware of have focused on paying upfront lump-sum amounts, not per click,” Sims said. “What this code does is it gives the possibility of arbitration, which I suspect won’t be used that often, but that possibility evens up the bargaining process. This is really the only way we can get commercial deals.”
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