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Australia moves to force tech giants to pay for news

Tech giants such as Google and Facebook will be forced to pay Australian commercial media for using their news content under plans announced by the government on Friday.

Sydney, 31 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Tech giants such as Google and Facebook will be forced to pay Australian commercial media for using their news content under plans announced by the government on Friday.

Under a new industry code of conduct, drafted by the government’s competition watchdog, internet giants could have to pay millions of dollars to use news published by Australia’s traditional news outlets.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released the draft mandatory code on Friday, which aims to correct bargaining power imbalances in negotiating agreements through a binding arbitration process.

The draft code is open for discussion until August 28 and the government is expected to have it implemented by the end of the year.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters the code would “create a level playing field” for negotiations to set up payment agreements for the use of news.

“We want Google and Facebook to continue to provide these services to the Australia community… but we want it to be on our terms. We want it to be in accordance with our law and we want it to be fair.”

Frydenberg said the legislation will give the government the power to decide which digital platforms are subject to the code but “it will start with Google and Facebook.”

He said paying for news was essential to sustain Australian media.

Under the code if no payment agreement is made after three months, it will go to compulsory arbitration to fix a result. There will be tough penalties for companies that refuse to engage with the process.

The ACCC would be able to issue infringement notices for minor code breaches, but larger breaches could lead to fines of up to 10 million dollars per breach.

“There are a range of different penalties, one of those possibilities is 10 per cent of the company’s entire Australian turnover,” the ABC reported Communications Minister Paul Fletcher as saying.

“These are very high penalties… they’re tough penalties,” he added.

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