In case you missed it, Australia is currently trying to introduce a media bargaining code forcing Facebook, Google and presumably any other company that links to news to pay money to media organisations.
It’s as crazy as it sounds.
Google has recently said that if the code were approved in its current form, it would pull search out of Australia. Some think Google might be bluffing, but I assure you that they are not. They will make good on their threat if they’re willing to go on the record.
This poses the question, if Bing or DuckDuckGo were to become the likely alternatives, would Microsoft (owner of Bing) or DuckDuckGo cave into the government’s demands and pay news companies?
The issues I have with the code are the precedent it would set. Where do we draw the line and open up the floodgates for other content producers and providers to make the same demands that search engines and media companies pay for linking to other types of content?
I’m not a lawyer, but I know what a precedent is. This would set what I think is a dangerous precedent in its current form. Think beyond Australia, and this would be rolled out to other countries as empowered news organisations go on a feeding frenzy.
When you think about how Google works, they are linking to news sites from organisations forced to go online after the internet killed their traditional print distribution. If anything, Google is helping news organisations by providing them with free reach, the same reach they tried to fight in the early 00’s as print media began to die.
The only losers in this situation are Australian internet users. I doubt Bing or DuckDuckGo will commit to paying news organisations any money. This code isn’t about playing fair. This code is retaliation from media organisations who had their businesses severed by the internet and are now looking for a cash handout because they second-guessed the impact of the internet on their business models.
If we want to do what is fair, let’s make multinationals pay their fair share of tax, including News Corp, who receive millions in grants but have paid zero tax. News Corp is the most likely beneficiary of this proposed code anyway.
It’s taken me a while to come to a “position” on this issue. I agree with Google’s MD when she says the web is built on the concept of linking, which includes search.
On the other hand, in the same way that copyright laws allow a degree of latitude to publish excerpts of a book for review etc without falling foul of the copyright laws, it seems like Facebook especially tends to regurgitate news from other sites, so I think there is a fine line as to what “search” represents. I certainly don’t think of Facebook as a “search engine”, for one.
It seems to me that the online News companies haven’t found an appropriate way to monetize their operations and are therefore looking for an easy fix. My problem with that is that it is unfair to limit it to only news companies.
To use an example, let’s say I am looking for investment research information: either I can find information that has been given out freely, or I can find content that is “keyed” to match my search requests, but ultimately gives me no usable content because it is hidden behind a paywall.
It feels like news companies are stuck between a rock and hard place in terms of wanting to attract customers to their content, having open content for “searching” purposes, but wanting to get paid. It seems like a poorly designed business model at present.
Decades ago when I caught the train to work it was my morning habit to grab a copy of the paper to read on the train. Paid $1 per day or something for the paper. But back then some people only got eg. the Saturday Age to look for jobs, or the Sunday paper because they weren’t working, and the idea of paying $1 or $2 “on-demand” is something that doesn’t seem to exist in the digital news space insofar as a paywall is concerned.
And I definitely think there is a strong hint of Liberals looking after News Corp in these rules.
And I absolutely agree with your comments about multinationals not paying their fair share of tax.
Microsoft said that Google & Facebook are being babies about it and that they’re happy to pay up for the news links. It’s ridiculous.