Australia’s media code will set a dangerous precedent: Google

(IANS) Google on Sunday criticized Australia’s draft News Media Negotiation Code again, saying it is not feasible and that the company has raised concerns about its unfair payment terms and unclear definitions and obligations.

Emphasizing that the draft code would set a dangerous precedent as a similar regime of forced and unilateral negotiation could be imposed on other industries, impacting other companies, Google said the code is not viable for the company in its current form.

Google recently announced a $ 1 billion global investment to license content for a new product, News Showcase, which will launch first in Germany and Brazil.

“We signed several deals with Australian publishers for this product in June and we were hoping to launch it here soon. We have had to put these plans on hiatus for now as we don’t yet know if a product like News Showcase would be viable with code, “said Mel Silva, vice president of Google Australia and New Zealand.

“The agreements we have signed in Australia and around the world show that we are not only willing to pay to license news content for a new product, but that we can reach agreements with publishers without the onerous and prescriptive framework of code negotiation. preliminary and unilateral arbitration model ”.

According to the Australian government, the draft code would allow media companies to negotiate individually or collectively with Google and Facebook over payment for the inclusion of news on their services.

However, Google said the highly unusual, largely untested, unilateral arbitration system in the proposed law will not allow for fair negotiations and no company can operate with that level of uncertainty.

The draft code proposes, in effect, a “must include, must pay” system, something that is extreme and unprecedented.

Basically, it forces Google to provide a benefit to Australian news companies and to pay them to receive that benefit.

A “mandatory” regimen is rare, the company said.

“And when this type of system is used, the parties have the right to be included, but not to be included for free, much less to be able to demand that payments be included,” argued Google.

“What is particularly worrying is that it is not just about uneven bargaining. We would be forced to participate in these one-sided negotiations with all Australian registered news companies making more than $ 150,000 a year. “

Google said it could face extreme, non-commercial payment claims, which is not financially sustainable for any company.

“The code is extremely broad and lacks vital definitions. This makes it difficult to know how to comply with its multiple provisions and carries potentially huge financial penalties. “

Google could be fined up to 10 percent of its Australian revenue for a single violation.

“No company in Australia should have to manage the enormous risk that comes with such severe penalties for such uncertain provisions,” the tech giant said.

In fact, Google said, no other code in Australia carries such large penalties. Penalties for violations of other codes that carry penalties (and many of them do not) have a maximum of $ 66,000.

On April 20, the Australian government announced that it had directed the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address imbalances in bargaining power between Australian media companies and Google and Facebook.

Google said it has proposed changes to the ACCC and the government, and that it “continues to engage with them in a constructive way so that we can come up with a fair code for all.”

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