Google and Australia at loggerheads over “unworkable” media law

Back in August we detailed a rather interesting developing story between Google and the Australian government, in which the latter had drafted a News Media Bargaining Code that sought to compel the tech firm to pay publishers in the country for adding links to their content.

At the time Google argued that it gave larger publishers an advantage over smaller ones, and in some instances could result in user data being accessed without consent. While Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission issued statements on the matter, refuting some of those claims, it looks like both parties are yet again at an impasse.

This time around, it is the launch of Google’s News Showcase feature which is now being put on hold as a result. This as the company says the current elements of the News Media Bargaining Code are “unworkable.”

“Two weeks ago, we detailed our concerns with the arbitration system proposed in Australia’s draft News Media Bargaining Code. We also announced a US$1 billion global investment to license content for a new product, News Showcase, which is rolling out first in Germany and Brazil,” explained Mel Silva, VP for Google Australia and New Zealand in a blog post.

“We signed several agreements with Australian publishers for this product in June, and were hoping to launch it here soon. We have had to put these plans on pause for now as we don’t know yet if a product like News Showcase would be viable under the code,” she added.

More specifically Silva points to a “must include, must pay” approach that Google would have to adhere to under the Code, which would force it not only to pay for links, but also carry those publications on its platform for free.

At the time of writing, the ACCC has not provided comment on Google’s latest claims, but looking at previous statements, the Commission has noted that the tech giant would not be required to charge for access to its free services, or indeed share user data.

As such it looks like Google is using the rollout of News Showcase as a stick to beat the ACCC with.

“We believe these conditions could be amended to make it a fair and workable code: a code that can work together with commercial deals and programs like News Showcase,” noted Silva.

With this saga far from finished, it should be interesting to see how it pans out, especially as News Showcase is earmarked for rollout in other parts of the world too. Should Google face similar push back in other regions, we could see the firm adopt the same tactics.

[Image – Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash]


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