Media law – Google could shut down search in Australia
Australia’s new “News Media Bargaining Code” could lead to Google shutting down search if the law is not adjusted.
Taking our services off the market in Australia is the last thing Google and I want – especially since there is another way.Mel Silva, Google Australia and New Zealand
Under the current wording of the law, Google would have to pay Australian publishers a royalty to display their content as previews in search results. The company would have to negotiate the amount of the royalty separately with each publisher. If no agreement could be reached, a neutral arbitration court would decide. Google criticizes the fact that an arbitration court would hardly be able to assess the value of the content and that this would represent an “inestimable risk” for the company.
Google News showcase instead of Australian media law
Google also says that negotiating with individual publishers would be too burdensome. Instead of the royalty rates prescribed in the Australian Media Act, the company would therefore like to use the Google News Showcase model in Australia. This involves Google entering into contracts with individual publishers for which the publishers receive a publicly undisclosed fee. Already, Google has agreed to this solution with seven major publishers in Australia, according to a blog post.
Fees for links
Australia’s new media law includes fees for links in addition to royalties for previews. The blog post states that “the links we have to pay for are so poorly defined that it is not clear to us what is covered.” In the law it says to it only that links are seized, which bring Google and Facebook a “use”. Google says that without links and previews the operation of a search engine would not be possible. According to Google, royalty payments for this therefore undermine the basic principles of the Internet.
Currently, the planned media law only affects Google and Facebook. However, the text of the law explicitly states that other major services may be added in the future. Facebook has also already threatened to withdraw from Australia in response to the unclearly worded law. Should Google actually leave Australia, this could trigger damages of up to $53 billion for the local economy, according to an economic report by the group.