First Australia, maybe Europe, now America mulls effort to potentially make Google, Facebook pay for news

Journalism Competition and Preservation Act has been proposed twice already. Will it survive this time?


Both chambers of Congress reintroduced a bill on Wednesday that would give American publishers the power to negotiate with tech companies, like Facebook and Google, over the use of news content online.

The bill, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), has received bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), and Ken Buck (R-CO) and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) have backed the legislation. The bill, however, still needs to be passed by both sides before it has the chance to be approved as law.

Cicilline first introduced the JCPA in 2018; it proposed news organizations should be allowed to band together for a 48-month period and collectively pressure the likes of Facebook and Google into negotiating a deal involving news content on the web giants' platforms. Today's antitrust laws forbid publishers from unifying for bargaining power, hence the need for this act to grant an exemption.

Said negotiations would be open ended as far as the law is concerned: the publishers could push for payment for the use of headlines and snippets of articles, or the full thing, on the pages of the internet goliaths; the prioritization of publications and outlets in search results to give netizens up-to-date information; highly visible links to subscriptions; a greater slice of ad revenue; and so on.

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Microsoft sides with media groups, together they urge Europe to follow Australia's lead, make Google, Facebook pay for news article links

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The legislation, funnily enough, failed to take off in Congress. Another attempt was made in 2019, but that withered and died too. Now, lawmakers in the Senate are also having another crack at passing the legislation [PDF] in the hopes that it will be successful this time round.

“Newspapers are locked in a life-or-death struggle with tech giants like Google and Facebook, and it’s not a fair fight,” Senator Kennedy said in a statement.

“Local papers have continued to deliver news despite declines in circulation, but readers are losing out as their options for news coverage evaporate. This bill will support the independence of local papers by giving news publishers the power to collectively negotiate with digital platforms like Google and Facebook. Google and Facebook aren’t just companies — they’re countries, and we can’t tolerate tech giants’ strangling their print news competitors."

It’s a good time to reintroduce the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. A similar battle raged in Australia over its News Media Bargaining Code, in which Facebook temporarily suspended all news content on its social media site and Google threatened to shut down Google Search for all netizens Down Under. A deal of sorts was struck eventually.

Things are picking up steam in Europe, too. Microsoft is working together with four European media trade groups to persuade the EU to introduce new laws that would require Google and Facebook to pay publishers for using news content. ®

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