On Feburary 18th, Canada affirmed to make Facebook pay for local news contents, seeking allies with tech giants and promising not to back down even if Facebook shuts off the country’s news as it did in Australia.
After the newly proposed legislation requiring Facebook and Google to pay for Australia’s local media contents, Facebook blocked all Austalian news content on its service.
The Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeaut, is in charge of coming up with a similar legislation which will be announced a few months later. He criticized Facebook’s action and declared that it would not instill fear in Ottawa.
“Canada is at the forefront of this battle … we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this,” he told the reporters.
Guilbeat said Canada could follow the Australian model, which requires Facebook and Google to reach deals to pay for local news outlets or agree on a price through binding arbitration.
Another option is to follow the example of France, which requires tech giants and platforms to negotiate with publishers seeking payment for the use of news contents.
“We are working to see which model would be the most appropriate,” he said, adding he spoke last week to his French, Australian, German and Finnish counterparts about working together on ensuring fair compensation for web content.
“I suspect that soon we will have five, 10, 15 countries adopting similar rules … is Facebook going to cut ties with Germany, with France?” he asked, saying that at some point Facebook’s approach would become “totally unsustainable”.
Last year, Canada’s local media organisations warned of a possible market failure without government action. They declared that the Australian approach would allow publishers to recover C$620 million a year. However, without action, the Canadian media organisations warned that Canada would lose 700 print journalism jobs out of 3,100 total.
Megan Boler, a professor in the University of Toronto who specialises in social media, stated that Facebook’s actions marked a turning point which would require an international approach.
“We could actually see a coalition, a united front against this monopoly, which could be very powerful,” she said in a phone interview.
This week, Facebook claimed that while news makes up less than 4 percent of content people see on the platform, it helped Australian publishers make about A$407 million last year.
Over the past three years, Google has successfully signed 500 deals, worth around $1 billion with publishers around the world for its new News Showcase service and i sin talks with the Canadian companies as well.
Guilbeault said Google will still be subject to the new Canadian law as Ottawa is willing for an approach that is fair.
“What’s to say that Google – tomorrow, six months, a year from now – doesn’t change its mind and says its doesn’t want to do that any more?” he said.
Lauren Skelly, a spokeswoman for Google in Canada, refused to comment on Guilbeault’s comment saying that Google did not the know the details of the legislation.
Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in INternet and e-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, said Canada should aspire to Google’s approach where companies put money into content that provided added value.
“If we follow the Australian model … we’ll find ourself in much the same spot,” he said by phone. “Everybody loses. The media organisations lose … Facebook loses.”
Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook in Canada, said there were “other options to support news in Canada that will more fairly benefit publishers of all sizes”.
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