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Canadian News Feb 11, 2021 4:17 PM EST

Trudeau Heritage Minister vows to force tech companies to pay for news

The legislation is part of a push to limit the power of big tech companies while forcing them to financially support the struggling news media industry.

Trudeau Heritage Minister vows to force tech companies to pay for news
Noah David Alter Toronto

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

The Liberal government is planning on moving forward with legislation that will force tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay for news that appears on their site, National Post reports.

The legislation is part of a push to limit the power of big tech companies while forcing them to financially support the struggling news media industry. Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has spearheaded the legislation.

It is expected to be introduced later this year, possibly as early as the spring.

Such a proposal follows similar legislation in Australia, where Google and Facebook are feuding with the government and threatening to pull their news content out of the nation entirely to avoid paying for content. The Australian government has remained steadfast, however. Similar legislation is also being proposed in France

"I was in a meeting with both the French and Australian minister," Guilbeault said. "Certainly in the case of France and Australia, on the media side of things, their determination to continue is unwavering, just like ours, really."

While Guilbeault said it would be fine for tech companies to enter into contractual agreements with news publishers if they so desire, this legislation goes beyond that to capture "as much of the media sector as possible."

The idea is that tech giants make immense profits from the sharing of news on their platforms, as finding and sharing news is one of the main usages of many of these platforms. Under the proposal being considered by the government, tech giants would have to pay a portion of their ad revenue received from promoting news content to news publishers themselves.

Many have noted that the legislation poses as an alternative to bailouts such as the $500 million provided by the Trudeau government to news media companies last year. Under the so-called "Australia model," news media companies would be able to accrue greater revenues at the cost of multi-billion dollar tech giants rather than taxpayers.

News Media Canada CEO John Hinds said that he is pushing for legislation under which the "whole [news media] industry can negotiate with the platforms on fair compensation," noting that voluntary negotiation between news companies and tech giants have failed every time they have been tried. According to him, it is now time to back up local news content producers with legislation. Hinds has offered immense support for the adoption of the "Australia model."

However, Guilbeault has suggested that whatever legislation Canada adopts will be different from legislation in either France or Australia. "No matter how appealing the French to some or the Australian to others models may seem, we have our own sets of laws, regulations, institutions, practices that are different, so we can't just import a model," the Heritage Minister said. "It has to be tailor-made for the Canadian reality."

The Liberals are additionally proposing a variety of new regulations to deal with online content, such as new regulations on "hate speech" which some have suggested may be similar to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which was repealed in 2014 by the Harper government. Section 13 was widely criticized for placing hate speech rules in the hands of small groups such as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The Liberals are also planning on imposing Canadian content rules on streaming services and sales taxes on some online services.

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