Canada Might Lose Its Dispute With Google

Canada recently became the latest national jurisdiction to pass a law aimed at forcing the US tech giants to pay local news providers for content.  Now, Google has joined with Meta threatening to block Canadian users from seeing local news on its platform after the government in Ottawa passed a bill requiring tech companies to pay for such content. 

Google and Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, are saying they will block local news from their platforms in Canada.

Google has struck payment agreements with news providers in Australia and elsewhere and had appeared willing to negotiate. But last week it changed course, calling Canada's current law "unworkable" and that  it would remove links to Canadian news from its search, news and discover products in the country once the act goes into effect in six months' time

In a statement, Google claimed that the Canadian government had not given it reason to believe “structural issues with the legislation” would be resolved during its implementation. Google said it would be “harder for Canadians to find news online” and “for journalists to reach their audiences".

The president of La Presse, a leading French-language publication in Quebec, Pierre-Elliott Levasseur, says he tried for years to negotiate payment agreements with tech giants, which he believed were sucking up data and ad dollars on the strength of news articles his 220-odd staff were supplying. He had hoped the Canadian legislation, referred to as C-18, or the Online News Act, would change that, and lead to an influx of funds that could be invested in the business.   

The law, which is aimed at Google and Meta, requires tech firms to negotiate payment agreements with local news outlets. If the two sides cannot reach a deal, the country's broadcast regulator can force them into arbitration. An independent parliamentary budget watchdog has estimated that measure could generate more than C$300m (£180m; $226m) in total annually, or funding for roughly 30% of a typical newsroom's operations. 

But instead of a windfall, La Presse, and every other Canadian news organisation now face a potential blackout, as the tech giants pledge to block links to news articles on their platforms rather than comply. Meta, which had opposed the proposal from the start, said it would start blocking news sites for Canadian users over the next few months. It says it currently has agreements with more than 150 Canadian news organisations, and it estimates its traffic helped news websites earn C$250m a year. 

“We have now informed the Government that when the law takes effect, we unfortunately will have to remove links to Canadian news from our Search, News and Discover products in Canada,” Google said in a blog post. It will also kill existing deals with publishers. “C-18 will also make it untenable for us to continue offering our Google News Showcase product in Canada,” it said.

Google:      The National News:    BBC:   Richmond&TwickerhamTimes:    Yahoo:   National Post

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