EU plan to copy Australia and make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news 

The EU is looking into plans to make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news in a push similar to reforms in Australia. 

MEPs are working on two draft European digital regulations that could be amended to include similar proposals to those in Australia, the Financial Times reported. 

The plans could require big tech companies to pay for news content as well as inform publishers about changes to how they rank news stories on their sites. 

The EU is looking into plans to make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news in a push similar to reforms in Australia

The EU is looking into plans to make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news in a push similar to reforms in Australia

The EU is looking into plans to make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news in a push similar to reforms in Australia

According to the publication, MEPs are divided over how best to introduce such reforms, and whether it is better to wait for the impact of the EU’s 2019 copyright overhaul to become clear. 

Google and Facebook have stepped up their efforts to reach licensing deals for news in the bloc, since the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market came into force in June 2019.  

It comes as Canberra is pursuing world-first laws that would require digital giants including Google and Facebook to compensate Australian news organisations, or pay millions of dollars in fines.

The move to check the tech giants’ power in Australia has prompted blowback from the US firms, with Facebook warning Australians could be blocked from sharing articles on its ‘News Feed’, while Google has been experimenting with hiding local news in searches. 

Google has threatened to remove its search function in Australia and Facebook warned it would pull news content if a new law requiring the tech giants to compensate media organisations is passed.  

In a hostile public hearing before Australian senators last month, Mel Silva, the Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said the company may be forced to pull its search function out of Australia if the code goes ahead. 

Mel Silva, the Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said the company may be forced to pull its search function out of Australia if the code goes ahead

Mel Silva, the Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said the company may be forced to pull its search function out of Australia if the code goes ahead

Mel Silva, the Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said the company may be forced to pull its search function out of Australia if the code goes ahead

‘The principle of unrestricted linking between web sites is fundamental to search and, coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk, if this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,’ she said.

‘That would be a bad outcome for us but also for the Australian people, media diversity and the small businesses who use our products every day.’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit back, saying Google will have to respect the law.

Canberra’s initiative has been closely watched around the globe, as news media worldwide suffer in an increasingly digital economy where big tech firms overwhelmingly capture advertising revenue. 

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee criticised the plans, saying in a submission to an Australian Senate inquiry he is ‘concerned that the code risks breaching a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online’.

‘The ability to link freely – meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees – is fundamental to how the web operates, how it has flourished till present, and how it will continue to grow in decades to come,’ he wrote.

The EU is looking into plans to make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news in a push similar to reforms in Australia

The EU is looking into plans to make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news in a push similar to reforms in Australia

The EU is looking into plans to make big tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay for news in a push similar to reforms in Australia 

In the submission dated January 18, Berners-Lee said he supports the need for publishers to be ‘properly rewarded’ for their work but ‘constraints on the use of hypertext links are not the correct way to achieve this goal’.

‘If this precedent were followed elsewhere it could make the web unworkable around the world,’ he wrote.

‘I therefore respectfully urge the committee to remove this mechanism from the code.’

The Office of the US Trade Representative has also urged Australia to abandon its ‘burdensome’ plan, saying there could be ‘long-lasting negative consequences’ for consumers and companies.

The planned legislation has received widespread support from Australian media organisations, many of which have been hit hard by a drop in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

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