US Congress could still pass laws that would force tech giants into commercial negotiations with small news outlets despite heavy-handed threats by Meta to pull news off Facebook if the legislation is passed.
Danielle Coffey, executive vice-president of the US-based News/Media Alliance, said she did not believe the US Congress was spooked by Meta’s threats this month to shut down news, and is optimistic the bargaining laws, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), could be passed in the lame-duck session, which ends on January 3.
The body which represents more than 2000 news publishers in the US is optimistic the laws can be passed before the new year.Credit:Getty
The News/Media Alliance represents 2000 newspapers in the US and Canada and has lobbied lawmakers to pass legislation that would force tech giants into commercial negotiations for use of their content on the platforms, a move similar to landmark media bargaining laws introduced in Australia last year.
But a recent attempt to legislate the JCPA resulted in threats by Meta to remove news from its social media website Facebook, with spokesman Andy Stone saying the proposal would create a “cartel-like entity”.
“Facebook’s threat to take down news was undemocratic and unbecoming,” Coffey said. “Just like in Australia, where similar threats were unsuccessful, we do not believe that Meta’s threat had any concrete effect on most lawmakers on either side of the aisle.”
"Although there are no guarantees – especially considering other policy priorities and differences between the parties – we are working hard to get JCPA passed before the end of the year."
Meta acted on its threats in Australia last year, temporarily blocking all news content from appearing on its feeds. Meta and Google argue that news outlets already benefit significantly from having their content shared on their platforms, which they choose to do.
Australia’s news media bargaining code was introduced last year in an effort to force Google and Facebook to pay eligible large and small news publishers to display articles in the search engine and “newsfeed”.
It was introduced after the Australian competition regulator found there was an imbalance of bargaining power between media companies and digital platforms.
Its introduction led to millions of dollars worth of deals between the digital giants and media companies including Nine Entertainment Co, owner of this masthead, News Corp Australia, publisher of The Australian and Herald Sun, the ABC and Guardian Australia.
The local legislative efforts also attracted international recognition and prompted similar regulation in markets such as Canada and New Zealand.
If passed, the JCPA would allow small and local news outlets to negotiate with tech giants for payment of their content. Unlike the Australian laws, the JCPA is tailored specifically to small publishers and has an “employee cap”, which excludes larger newspaper publishers from the bill. It is not supported by major news outlets.
Attempts to pass the legislation during the lame-duck period – the session after a November election and before the beginning of the new Congress on January 3 – were stalled last week when the JCPA was removed as a provision in the National Defense Authorisation Act because it was not related to national security. It would be very difficult to get the bill over the finish line in a new Congress with divided chambers.
Coffey said if Congress found another way to pass the laws, they would be another example for countries trying to balance the market power.
“Similar to the European Union’s Copyright Directive, which laid out the foundation for global efforts to require online platforms to compensate publishers, and the Australian News Media Bargaining Code, which established a strong, competition law-based mechanism for doing so, we hope that the JCPA would create further momentum to pass similar measures in other countries,” Coffey said.
“The more countries that adopt measures to ensure fair compensation for publishers, the harder it will be for the platforms to circumvent these laws and continue their current anticompetitive practices.”
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