Canada considers law requiring Facebook, Google to pay news publishers

Canada may soon follow Australia’s lead and require internet providers to compensate news publishers for the usage of their content. According to CBC News, Canada’s ruling Liberal Party has proposed legislation mandating Facebook, Google, and other web companies to reimburse news organizations for replicating or facilitating access to information. According to the government, the funds would aid in the “sustainability” of Canadian news.

Companies that fail to pay publishers will be subject to compulsory arbitration by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Canada’s telecom regulator. In addition, the CRTC will determine which news outlets are eligible for remuneration.

This was seen as a need by officials. The journalism sector, according to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, is “under crisis,” and publishers can no longer rely on ad revenue as they have in the past. He said that this was simply addressing a “market imbalance.”

We’ve reached out to Google and Meta, the parent company of Facebook. They’ve previously claimed that publishers benefited from traffic directed to their websites via search results and social media posts. They’ve also threatened to shut down services rather pay publishers, though, in Australia, Google eventually relented and made settlements to avoid an arbitration battle. Google said it was “carefully reviewing” the legislation and “fully supported[ed]” access to news in a statement to CBC News.

The bill has a good chance of passing. Despite the fact that the Liberals do not have a majority in Canada’s House of Commons, they recently agreed to work with the New Democratic Party to pass proposals that reflect similar objectives. Another question is whether it performs as expected. There’s concern that the CRTC’s position will lead to a “handful” of huge enterprises prospering at the expense of smaller businesses, as University of Ottawa internet research chair Michael Geist warned. If such is the case, the country’s news business may suffer further damage.

Lauren Skelly, a spokesperson for Google Canada, has published the company’s complete statement. The response is available to read below. Furthermore, Meta Public Policy Manager Rachel Curran stated that her company was “currently reviewing” the legislation and would do more once it “fully understand[s]” its nature.

“We are carefully reviewing the legislation to understand its implications.  We fully support ensuring Canadians have access to authoritative news and we look forward to working with the government to strengthen the news industry in Canada.”