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Require tech giants compensate news publishers


On Tuesday, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a bill that would require companies like the parents of Google and Facebook to pay Canadian media outlets for letting them a link to news content on their platforms.

Many Canadian publishers are struggling financially, and they have been asking the government for this for a long time. They say that most of the advertising money that is used to support their businesses has moved to global online giants.

After Australia passed a similar law in 2021 and Europe changed its copyright laws to pay publishers, this pressure grew.

Require tech giants compensate news publishers

The minister of Canadian heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, said at a news conference that the news business in Canada is in trouble. “This makes people less likely to trust each other and helps spread harmful misinformation in our society.”

Mr. Rodriguez said that between 2008 and last year, 450 news outlets in Canada shut down.

Mr. Rodriguez said that the proposed law would be a lot like Australia’s, but it would require public reporting and give the power to decide which operations are eligible for subsidies away from the minister and to an independent body.

In 2020, Facebook said that if Australia passed the law as it was proposed at the time, it would stop Australian users and news organizations from sharing news stories on Facebook and Instagram. Early the next year, it started to limit news, but soon changed its mind.

Google also said it would cut off Australia from its search engine in 2021, but then it made deals with news outlets in Australia to make up for it.

Mr. Rodriguez said that he and other government officials had talked to a lot of big tech companies.

“They were willing to follow rules,” he said. “Are there parts of the bill with which they agree or disagree? We’ll find out when we talk again.”

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A group of publishers called News Media Canada liked the bill.

In a statement, the group’s leader, Jamie Irving, said, “Real news written by real journalists costs real money.” “This law levels the playing field and gives Canada’s news publishers a fair chance. It doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything extra.”

Rachel Curran, a public policy manager at Meta, the company that owns Facebook, said in an email that the company was “reviewing the proposed legislation in detail” and that they “look forward to engaging with stakeholders once we know more about what the bill entails.”

Google didn’t answer when asked for a comment, and Twitter didn’t want to say anything.

The new law would keep YouTube out of the compensation plan. YouTube is a part of Alphabet, which is the parent company of Google. Reporters were told by people in the government that YouTube is subject to the country’s broadcasting laws. The law also doesn’t apply to services like Apple News that already license articles from publishers, or to personal messaging services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

How Canada’s system will work and how much money will go to the news media will depend on talks between tech companies and publishers, as well as decisions made by regulators, especially about which companies will get subsidies.

Publishers will be able to get together and make deals with tech companies as a group. They will also be able to keep making private deals with tech companies, like the deal Meta made with 18 Canadian publishers last fall.

If talks fail, the amount of money will be decided by a binding arbitration process.

Even though Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals don’t have a majority in the House of Commons, the bill is likely to pass because he recently joined forces with the New Democratic Party, which has been pushing for a long time for tech companies to pay for using news.

The bill is the latest thing that Mr. Trudeau’s government has done to help the newspaper business. It used to set aside 595 million Canadian dollars to help pay journalists and another 50 million Canadian dollars for local journalism programs. Because of the pandemic, the government offered emergency aid to all businesses, which publishers used to get millions of dollars. Magazines and small newspapers also got extra help from Covid that was tailored to their industry.

Christopher Waddell, a retired professor of journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, said he was worried about a part of the new law that would let the federal broadcast regulator decide which news organizations could negotiate with tech companies for money.

“How far are you pushed into the quagmire of government regulation and control when you start down this road?” he asked. “It’s a dangerous path.”

Anabel Quan-Haase, a professor of information and media studies at the University of Western Ontario in London, said that Australia showed that extra money helped smaller news publishers keep full-time staff.

She said, “I think it could really change some of the trends we’ve seen in the last 20 years.”

But Dr. Waddell said he doesn’t think the proposal or any of Canada’s other programs will save the newspaper industry for sure.

“The big problem for newspapers, besides not making enough money from ads, is that their readers are leaving,” he said. “And their audiences aren’t going away because they don’t have ads.”


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