Google says the publisher bargaining code could work but changes needed

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 15 September 2020
Mel Silva

Google has recommended three key changes to the federal government’s plan to make the tech giant pay news publishers for their content, which it says is unworkable in its current form.

Since the government outlined the draft news media bargaining code in July, the tech giant has rolled out a public campaign against the legislation. This includes an open letter, written by local managing director Mel Silva, and digital ads both claiming the draft code will make Google Search and YouTube “dramatically worse” in Australia.

Now, in another open letter, Google has outlined three key changes it would like to see to make the draft code “workable”.

“These adjustments, among others, are necessary so you can continue to have full and fair access to Google Search and YouTube,” Silva says in the letter.

“We’re proposing changes to the draft law to enable us to get to a workable code, so we can all move on to building a strong digital economy for Australia’s future. We’ll keep doing everything we can to make sure the final version of the law is better and fairer -- that it works for you, and for Australia.”

The first issue Google highlights is that the draft code would force it, as well as Facebook, to give news publishers “advance notice of significant changes to Search and other products and tell them how to minimise the effect on them”.

Google argues this requirement will hurt smaller creators and businesses across YouTube and Search who won’t be given the same information as the news publishers. It also argues it will make Search worse for users because it will slow down upgrades.

Instead, Google proposes that this requirement be amended to require only “reasonable notice about significant actionable changes”.

The draft code also requires Google to tell news businesses “how they can gain access” to user data. Google says this should be amended to specify Google is not required to share any additional data, over and above what publishers are already supplied.

Google’s last proposed amendment suggests that the code’s “one-sided negotiations” be changed to take into account the value that both sides bring to the table and prevent news businesses getting more “special treatment at the expense of other Australians”.

Facebook has also been fighting the proposed code, threatening to simply take down all news content in Australia should it be legislated.

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