Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed the draft legislation for public consultation on Friday. It aims to encourage news publishers to negotiate their terms individually or collectively with Facebook and Google.
In addition, the proposal also features options for independent arbitration if parties cannot reach an agreement within three months. After the public consultation phase, the ACCC will put it forward to the parliament for review and approval. If legislation is passed, the code is designed to be reviewed after a year.
According to ACCC Chairman Rod Sims, the news publishers are now in an unprivileged position as they have no other choice but to work with the platforms. For the time being, only Google and Facebook are subject to the new legislation. The ACCC does not rule out expanding it to other tech companies in the future.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that the ACCC could fine the tech giants up to USD 95,000 for minor breaches of the code. If the case goes to court, the fine could reach 10 percent of the platform’s Australian turnover for the past year.
The imposed changes aim to improve the Australian media landscape and secure its future, Frydenberg said. He also added that the code prohibits Google and Facebook from discriminating against the local media covered by the code.
Google and Facebook were cool on the news. In the past few months, both tech giants have downplayed the commercial impact of sharing news content. Instead, they highlighted the benefits for local media outlets from using their platforms.
The managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, Mel Silva, commented that the company is ”disappointed and concerned” about the draft legislation. In her view, the government’s intervention would affect Australia’s digital economy and its services to the residents.
Will Easton, the Facebook Managing Director for the region, said that the company is reviewing the code to evaluate its potential impact on its investments in the news ecosystem in Australia.
Last month, Google announced plans to launch a licensing program later this year to pay publishers, which is in contrast with its long-term resistance to pay for news. In Spain, the tech giant discontinued its Google News services after tensions over the right to payments. In Germany, some publishers decided to allow Google to publish their content for free after a significant drop in traffic after their snippets no longer popped up on Google News.
What do you think? Should tech pay publishers for news content?