Google is battling against Australian enactment to pay news publishers while consenting to an arrangement to pay French publishers. So, what is the matter?
The conflict between Google and Australia began when Google continued to disagree with pending enactment that would force Google to pay Australian publishers for showing their content in Search Engine Results Page (SERPs).
At the same time, Google has simultaneously signed a deal to pay French publishers for their content.
The whole matter revolves around a battle between Google and Australia with respect to the News Media Bargaining Code.
If we take a closer look at both the agreements, that of French and Australia, there is much more difference to it.
In 2020, French readers observed that news snippets and extracted results from European publishers pulled from the SERPs with regards to a copyright law that was passed.
In October, Google reported that they were contributing $1 billion over three years to pay distributors for content exhibited on Google News Showcase.
The contract with France permits Google to negotiate individual licenses, whereas payment will be based on particular and measurable measurements.
According to the French agreement, Google will be paying on behalf of the reader for any content published behind paywalls, allowing users access to content that is exclusive to only those readers who are willing to pay.
The major difference between the French agreement and the Australian agreement is that the Australian publishers seek compensation when Google links their content in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) while providing advance notice of “deliberate algorithm changes” that would affect the news media business.
In a Senate hearing that took place on 22nd Of January, Mel Silva, Google Australia’s Managing Director, stated the issues with the News Media Bargaining Code and proposed three major technical amendments that would make the Code “agreeable” to them.
First one is
“Rather than payment for links and snippets, the Code could designate News Showcase, and allow Google to reach commercial agreements to pay Australian news publishers for value in addition to the valuable traffic we already provide through Search.”
Google was essentially providing the same offer that was agreed with France where French publishers are ready to operate through the Google News Showcase, and payment would be made to those publishers by Google.
If Australia agrees to the deal offered by Google, it will have two benefits as their content would be available in organic search results as well as in the Google News Showcase.
Nonetheless, no payment would be made for content shown in organic search results; only news stories within the Showcase will receive compensation.
“The Code’s final offer arbitration model, with biased criteria, represents an unmanageable financial and operational risk for Google. If the Code is substituted with standard commercial arbitration in accordance with comparable deals, it would encourage good faith negotiations and ensure we’re held accountable by robust dispute resolution.”
The same point was discussed in the blog post published by Google, which describes eight reasons why the News Media Bargaining Code is unagreeable.
Google thinks that the arbitration process wouldn’t consider the advantages that publishers will get from Google, and it would be unfairly biased towards the publisher’s costs.
And Finally, the third one –
“The algorithm notification provision could be modified to require only acceptable notice about major actionable changes to Google’s algorithm, to make sure publishers are able to respond to changes that affect them.”
Google thinks that this aspect of the Code would fundamentally mean the company gives news publishers special treatment that would leave other businesses that use organic search as a medium to advertise their business at a disadvantage.
Why Google Is Disputing The News Media Bargaining Code –
Adding more to the three points described in Silva’s opening statement at the Senate hearing, Google further explained why they were opposed to the potential legislation but supportive of a fair Code in the blog post.
Additional points specify that the Code agreement would fundamentally break Google Search, and it will leave no option for Google but to pull their services from Australia.
Furthermore, Google also provided other references who agree that organic search should remain a free commodity, where no payment is required by either party to fill the search results.
Google emphasized again that they are more than willing to pay news publishers but only for the content shown in Google News Showcase while making “reasonable amendments to the arbitration model”; nonetheless, it is not clear in the post how and what that would look like.
Lastly, Google points out that they don’t show whole articles but rather leverage the algorithm to link users to articles. Thus they are not accountable for declining newspaper revenue and that the search engine makes major and substantial contributions to Australia every year.
The Treasurer and the Minister for Communications published a joint media release on the 8th of December to “address the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms.”
The joint media release stated that the Code would apply only to Google Search and Facebook News Feed initially and that other platforms could be further added in the future should they showcase a ‘bargaining power imbalance’.
As a result, if the Code does go through, other search engines could find themselves facing similar demands.
It is clear that Google has no problem paying to news publishers for the content shown in the Google News Showcase, but they have issues with paying for organic results and the terms and conditions outlined in the Code.
Moreover, is it only about Google being targeted by the Code? Would this put tech giants at a disadvantage as other companies would not have to legally pay news publishers to advertise their content in the organic search results?
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