The Week (US)
Media: Should Google, Facebook pay for news?
“Do tech companies need publishers more than publishers need tech companies?” asked David Pierce in Protocol .com. We might be closer to getting an answer. Australia introduced a bill last week that will make Google, Facebook, and other tech platforms pay for news links. The tech industry initially saw the proposed law as little more than an excuse to force them to write “a big check with Rupert Murdoch’s name on it.” Facebook even thought it could simply tell the Australian government “to shove it,” blocking Australians from posting any news links on its site (see Best International Columns, p. 15). But after a few days of brinksmanship, both Facebook and Google are at the bargaining table, negotiating how much they will pay to Australian news outlets after the law’s enactment.
This is not new territory for Google, which just last month set up a similar deal in France, said Mathieu Rosemain in Reuters .com. Google “agreed to pay $76 million over three years to a group of 121 French news publishers” to license content and settle copyright claims. Annual payments range from $1.3 million a year for France’s top daily, Le Monde, down to $13,741 for La Voix de la Haute Marne. Three top publishers negotiated an extra $3.6 million each, in part by agreeing to sell subscriptions through Google. All these numbers are a drop in the bucket compared with Google’s $183 billion annual revenue. Google can afford to lose some battles to win the war, said David Fickling in Bloomberg.com. “The real motherlode for these businesses is their ability to act as intermediaries for a digital advertising market that’s increasingly swallowing the world’s marketing budgets.” By ceding some ground in France and Australia, Google keeps its hands on the bigger prize: “Control and distribution of the world’s online information.”
“If Facebook does not want to pay for news links, and the links are not core to its business, it should not have to,” said Kara Swisher in The New York Times. Facebook says that news links make up less than 4 percent of its News Feed content, and publishers don’t have a right to demand special access to its platform. But the company’s clumsy response backfired and “played right into the hands of those who want to rein in the company for more legitimate reasons.” Google, for its part, just “invited every other country to pursue a similar protection racket,” said Casey Newton in TheVerge.com. Its fear was that removing links would “break the search engine in Australia, opening it up to rivals” such as Microsoft. But Google’s capitulation means other countries will follow suit. “A basic tenet of the Open Web—that hyperlinks can be freely displayed on any website—just took a body blow.”