Australia passed a media law Thursday after amendments were made to it following protest by Facebook. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Australia on Thursday passed legislation to require Internet companies to pay news publishers for showing their content online days after it amended the law to end Facebook's protest of blocking Australian news on its platform.
The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code became law on Thursday after it passed both houses of Parliament, and will require digital companies, such as Google and Facebook, to negotiate deals with news publishers in order to show links content on their services.
The Code, developed by watchdog Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, will address the negotiating power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher, the minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, said in a joint statement.
"The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia," the pair said.
The House and Senate passed the law days after Frydenberg announced amendments to it including a two-month negotiation period for tech companies and publishers to hash out a deal before entering final-offer arbitration. It also added the condition that the decision to apply the code to companies will take into account the digital platform's contributions to the Australian news industry.
The amendments were made following negotiations with Facebook after the U.S. company stopped showing Australian news and government information on its site in protest of the code.
Facebook's Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said in a blog post Wednesday that the ban wasn't a move they took lightly, stating "we erred on the side of over-enforcement."
"We had to take action quickly because it was legally necessary to do so before the new law came into force," he said, adding that they are "more than willing to partner with news publishers."
Facebook said it ended its protest after the amendments were announced.
Microsoft President Brad Smith called the new law "a big step forward."
"It helps ensure publishers and journalists get paid a fairer share for their work," he said in a statement. "Australia has shown what's possible and other democracies around the world can build on their ideas."
Peter Lewis, the director of the Australia Institute's Center for Responsible Technology, described the law as a safety net to ensure social media platforms recognize the value of journalism.
It is unknown if large digital companies that have already made deals with news organizations will be designated under the Code, and Lewis said it'll be important to see how the negotiations with smaller publishers play out.
"We hope the treasurer will use his powers to ensure this deal delivers for the entire Australian media and not just the largest players," he said in a statement.