Three Australian lifestyle content producers claim that after declining to negotiate licensing arrangements, Facebook utilized their pieces on its newly-established news service and that the country’s harsh new Internet legislation failed to protect them. Australia enacted a bill this year threatening government action if Facebook and Alphabet’s Google did not strike arrangements with some of the country’s largest news firms.
The controversy has brought to light potential flaws in the contentious legislation. While the majority of Australia’s major media companies have signed agreements, several smaller publications claim that the regulation has not prevented their material from generating clicks and advertising income for Facebook without pay.
Websites that offer entertainment news, reviews, and listings, such as Urban List, Broadsheet Media, and Concrete Playground, claim they approached Facebook about paying for their material after the law was enacted in February.
Facebook denied them in a joint call with Reuters, stating their content was unsuitable for its Facebook News platform, and advised them to apply for funding from an AUD 15 million (about Rs. 80 crores) fund for Australian regional and digital newsrooms. “They told me that, ‘oh well, you’re not going to be included in the News tab and that’s what we’re paying for,” said Nick Shelton, founder of Broadsheet Media. “To our surprise, we woke one-morning last week and all of our content was there.”
Facebook refused to respond to the three firms explicitly but did say that bringing viewers to their sites added value to publishers.
According to the rules, Facebook and Google must either negotiate payment arrangements with outlets themselves or have a government-appointed arbitrator do it for them, but a publisher must first establish that its primary aim is to provide news and that it has been unfairly excluded.
The three publishers have stated that if Facebook refuses to meet with them, they would seek government action.
“If at the end of the day we don’t get included in a commercial agreement, then absolutely they need a stick,” said Shelton. “We are three prime examples of publishers and media businesses which should be included as part of this framework.”
Publishers must register with the Australian Communications and Media Authority as a news source in order to be protected by the legislation. “Based on criteria including the levels of ‘core news’ (essentially public interest journalism) that they produce”, According to an email from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which developed the regulation.
The name Urban List has been added to the list. Broadsheet and Concrete Playground have yet to sign up, citing a desire to negotiate a private arrangement.
In a second case, the ACCC has stated it will investigate an allegation made by The Conversation, a publication that provides scholarly opinion on current events, that Facebook has refused to negotiate a license agreement. Google has agreed to work with The Conversation.