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During the 2021 federal election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, pledged to “introduce legislation, within 100 days, that would require digital platforms that generate revenues from the publication of news content to share a portion of their revenues with Canadian news outlets. This legislation would be based on the Australian model and level the playing field between global platforms and Canadian news outlets.”

That commitment, along with similar commitments from other federal parties, was welcome news to an industry that has seen more than 80 per cent of advertising revenues diverted to web giants. And the COVID-19 pandemic is only compounding this market failure.

Under the legislation, Canadian news publishers would be permitted to negotiate collectively with web giants, namely Google and Meta (i.e., Facebook), in order to be compensated fairly for the use of their copyrighted content. If negotiations do not lead to an agreement, baseball-style final offer arbitration would determine a settlement.

With the prospect of Canada following Australia’s example, Google and Meta reached out to number of Canada’s larger news publishers. According to the U.K.-based Press Gazette, “There is some evidence to suggest that the threat of this legislation is already paying off for Canadian publishers … Google, perhaps in anticipation of Ottawa’s crackdown, has already started offering more generous payments for signing up to [Google] News Showcase.”

While those agreements are a needed shot in the arms for the industry’s biggest players, they are short-term in nature and renewal will surely not be on the same terms if Parliament does not pass legislation soon. As for smaller publishers that serve local communities across the country, their phones aren’t ringing.

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