By Paul Vieira

 

OTTAWA--Canada's news publishers commended Google on Thursday for recommending "good faith" changes to the country's law compelling digital platforms to compensate media outlets.

Late last week, Google, a unit of Alphabet, said Canada needed to make at least eight changes to the law, or else it would remove links to news articles on its search function for Canadian users starting in December. Its demands were included in a submission to the federal government.

"Google's submission is a welcome, clear, constructive, good faith articulation of legitimate concerns," said News Media Canada, a lobby group that has advocated for the Liberal government measures aimed at providing financial support to the struggling media sector. "We are in agreement with many of the issues they have raised."

Among the key elements News Media Canada is backing is a limit on how big a financial contribution digital companies, notably Google and Meta Platforms, would make to media outlets. The changes Google seeks cover issues such as which media outlets qualify for compensation, copyright limitations and how digital platforms can obtain exemptions to the law.

"We are ready to sit down and work through the details of these issues before the regulations are finalized," News Media Canada said in a statement sent via email.

The law, known as the Online News Act, was approved by parliament last June. At that time, Google issued its first warning about removing links to news articles on searches by Canadian users unless the Liberal government made changes. Meta Platforms started in August blocking news links for Canadian users of Facebook and Instagram rather than be subject to the law.

In its submission, Google said the law, "while well intended, is built upon a fundamentally flawed premise, yielding an unworkable framework and process that the regulations unfortunately do not remedy -- and in certain instances, exacerbate."

Google and Meta have argued the legislation exposes them to uncertain financial liability because it puts a price on free links to web pages, which contravenes copyright legislation and upends the concept of an open internet where users can search and connect to material without restrictions.

Canada's minister in charge of media policy said last week the government is willing to talk to Google about striking the appropriate balance with its law. Under the law, digital platforms would be compelled to strike commercial deals with news publishers for their content. Should negotiations fail, the legislation calls for the two sides to enter binding arbitration to determine appropriate compensation.

Canadian officials have said the rationale behind requiring Meta and Google to pay for news content is to support a media sector struggling from the shift of advertising sales from print and broadcast to the online sphere.

Small and mid-sized online-only publishers say Meta's decision to block news links has resulted in a sharp drop in traffic visits that had previously been driven by links featured on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Write to Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 12, 2023 19:34 ET (23:34 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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