Australia, Facebook strike compromise deal in spat over media content

Facebook said on Tuesday it would restore Australian news pages after negotiating changes with the government to a proposed law that forces tech giants to pay for media content displayed on their platforms.

The standoff between the Canberra government and the tech giant has been closely watched by other countries, which are considering whether to follow Australia’s lead in challenging big technology firms’ dominance in the news content market.

The deal came as Australia agreed a series of changes to the original legislation.

Australia’s treasurer will now consider whether a digital platform has made a “significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses” when deciding whether to apply the proposed law to Facebook or Google.

A two-month mediation period has been inserted into the code. This, Australia said, would allow more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter a binding final offer arbitration process.

Australia will tweak the final offer arbitration process to ensure that mediation is first sought.

Australia says the amendments will encourage Facebook to strike a series of deals with media companies.

However, Facebook said it would not be held hostage to the demands of the media companies.

The amended legislation, which has the support of both major parties, will now go to the upper chamber Senate. Once approved, it will go back to the House of Representatives, where it could pass quickly, most likely this week.

After winning parliamentary approval it must finally go to Australia’s Governor General for royal assent, which is a formality.

Australia is poised to become the first country to impose a regulatory requirement on Facebook and Google to pay media companies for news content.

Others are expected to follow. Canada said last week it would adopt similar legislation proposed by Australia. Britain is also expected to unveil new rules that the government said would “try and help rebalance the relationship between publishers and online platforms”.

France’s copyright rules require large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content.

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