Australia passes law to make Facebook and Google pay for news

The Austrlian government said the law would ensure that news businesses'are fairly renumerated for the content they generate. | REUTERS

"Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia, and that is why they have sought to get a code here that is workable", he added, referring to the bill, the News Media Bargaining Code.

Final offer arbitration has also been emphasised as a last resort where commercial deals can not be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

The move came a week after Facebook stopped Australian users from sharing or posting news links last Thursday.

None of these amendments seems particularly exciting or interesting, especially as the core elements of the code continue - the full weight of the Australian government hanging like an axe over the necks of Facebook and Google should they not play (and pay) nicely and further line the pockets of Australia's media owners more than they already are. They say they have deals with more than 50 Australian titles and more than 500 publishers globally using the model-which was launched in October.

The rest of the laws had passed in Parliament earlier, so they can now be implemented.

That action by Facebook drew a deluge of reactions from across Australia, with some government officials accusing Facebook of attempting to bully the Australian government.

While Big Tech and media outlets have battled over the right to news content in other jurisdictions, Australia's proposed laws are the most expansive and seen as a possible template for other nations.

Clegg said Facebook had invested $600 million since 2018 to support the news industry, and planned at least $1 billion more over the next three years.

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News was reinstated after the Senate passed controversial legislation which could compel Facebook and Google to pay for news content.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg had told him the ban would end "in the coming days", following the talks.

The process of negotiating changes to the code has revealed the private values of Facebook, Google and any similar parties that could be impacted by the code.

Facebook has opened up on its very public clash with the Australian government, that resulted in it last week blocking Australian users from sharing local and worldwide news on its platforms. News firms in Australia like Nine Entertainment, Seven West, and others will have their individual agreements.

"Facebook would have been forced to pay potentially unlimited amounts of money to multinational media conglomerates under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook - without even so much as a guarantee that it is used to pay for journalism, let alone support smaller publishers".

Front pages of Australian newspapers are displayed featuring stories about Facebook in Sydney.

She said the government is pursuing a "Made-in-Canada approach ... that is sustainable for news publishers, small and large, digital platforms, and for the health of our democracy".

"We now face the unusual possibility that the news media mandatory code could be passed by parliament and it applies to precisely no one", said Marcus Strom, head of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, a union.

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