EU able to observe Australia’s lead on making Massive Tech pay for information

The EU lawmaker overseeing the new digital regulation in Europe wants to force big tech companies to pay for news. This corresponds to a similar move in Australia and strengthens the hand of publishers against Google and Facebook.

The initiative by Members of the European Parliament would be a major blow to Google, which threatens to leave Australia in protest of a proposed new law that would force it to pay for news.

Facebook has also warned that it will prevent users in Australia from sharing messages if the legislation is passed in its current form.

MEPs, who are working on two landmark bills for European digital regulations, the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), told the Financial Times that the laws could be changed if they go through the EU Parliament to include aspects of the Australian reforms.

This includes the ability to bind arbitration for licensing agreements and require tech companies to notify publishers of changes in the ranking of news on their websites.

We will never accept this situation when someone uses content. . . and authors are not remunerated at all

Alex Saliba, a Maltese MEP who chaired Parliament’s first report on the DSA, said the Australian approach to Google and Facebook had managed to tackle “the acute bargaining power imbalances” with publishers.

“Because of their dominance in search, social media and advertising, large digital platforms create power imbalances and benefit significantly from news content,” he said. “I think it’s only fair that they repay a fair amount.”

Google and Facebook have stepped up their efforts to get news licensing agreements in Europe since the EU revised its copyright laws in 2019. The changes give publishers the right to compensation for snippets of content that appear on online platforms.

However, some MPs say the regime is still too weak.

Andrus Ansip, an Estonian MEP and former commissioner who helped draft the copyright directive, said he was open to further changes. “The idea of ​​the Copyright Directive was to create a stronger bargaining power for news publishers,” he said.

“We now know that the same process is going on in Australia. I don’t want to reopen the copyright directive, but we have to [look at the DSA] when we need to bring more clarity. “

Ansip, a MEP from the liberal Renew group, is vice-chair of the committee that deals with key pieces of digital legislation. “We will never accept this situation if someone uses content. . . and writers are not paid at all, ”he added

As support for Australian-style action grows, MPs are more divided on how best to introduce such reforms and whether it is better to wait for the effects of the copyright overhaul to become clear. In the EU system, MEPs have the greatest influence on amending Commission proposals that need to be agreed with EU member states in order to become law.

Arba Kokalari, a Swedish center-right MEP who is shadow rapporteur responsible for guiding the DSA through parliament, said it was “problematic” to consider new laws “before they even see the new copyright directive implemented becomes”.

But she added that measures like publishers’ right to know when tech companies have tweaked their algorithms, which affects news ranking, “is something I think we need to address in the DSA”.

Google recently entered into license agreements in France, in part because a court stepped in to demand negotiations with news publishers. Stephanie Yon Courtin, MEP for Renew and former advisor to the French competition authority, highlighted Google’s threats to withdraw from Australia and recent negotiations in Europe as “imbalances still need to be fixed”.

“It is time to force online platforms to negotiate fairly to reward news content received from press publishers and to advise them on algorithm changes that would affect content ranking,” she said.

Google, which has pledged to spend $ 1 billion worldwide on news licensing over the next three years, said the EU copyright directive aims to “strike the right balance between publishers and platforms”.

“People trust Google to help them find relevant and reliable information from a number of websites. This helps publishers by sending them valuable traffic to their websites,” said Google. “We’re willing to pay to keep supporting journalism, and we’re doing it all over the world.”

Facebook declined to comment.

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