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In world first, Australia moves to force Google & Facebook to pay local news outlets for content

In world first, Australia moves to force Google & Facebook to pay local news outlets for content
Google and Facebook could soon be required to compensate Australian media outlets for using their content on their platforms, as Canberra pursues unprecedented regulations aimed at the tech giant.

A proposed law that will go before Australian parliament this week requires Google and Facebook to reach a deal with local publishers concerning how much they fork over for news content featured on their online services. A government appointed arbitrator will decide the compensation package if the parties fail to reach an agreement. 

“This is a huge reform, this is a world first, and the world is watching what happens here in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters in the nation’s capital on Tuesday. He said the legislation was designed to “ensure that the rules of the digital world mirror the rules of the physical world,” and that the government intervention would “sustain our media landscape.”

The proposed regulation would apply to a host of Australian media companies, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and private outlets like News Corp and Nine Entertainment. However, changes to the draft legislation made earlier this year would exempt Facebook-owned Instagram and Google’s YouTube video platform from the law. The tech giants will also be allowed to factor in the value of referral clicks from their platforms during negotiations. 

Facebook Australia said it would review the legislation and work with lawmakers to create a “workable framework” to support the country’s media companies. 

For the last three years, Australia has been probing the business practices and influence of the US platforms. Last year, Canberra directed Facebook and Google to broker a voluntary deal with media outlets to use their content, but the talks were inconclusive. In July, the Australian government announced it would seek to force the tech giants to pay up. 

Facebook has already agreed to pay news outlets in the UK to use their content for its dedicated news section. In a feature expected to launch in January, the company will aggregate selected news stories from a range of mainstream UK outlets, including the Guardian, the Daily Mirror, the Independent, and magazines such as the Economist. Facebook reportedly agreed to pay millions of pounds a year to license the content, although the exact figure was not disclosed.

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