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Navigating The Complexities

Navigating the complexities of relations between media houses and internet giants is a difficult task. At the very core of that complexity is the distribution of revenues from media businesses. Google is all set to oppose the Online News Act proposed by the Government of Canada. As per the proposed Act, companies, like Google or Facebook, would have to pay Intellectual Property Rights fees to respective media houses for publishing their news contents on online platforms.

There is nothing new in such legislative proposals, as the Australian Parliament passed the New Media Bargaining Code, while the French Parliament adopted Neighbouring Right for news agencies and news publishers in July 2019. At that time, Franck Riester, the French Minister of Culture, stressed: “France is the first country to transpose the EU directive on Neighbouring Rights (Directive 2019/790 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market) into National Law.

In each case, the internet companies have opposed such laws, claiming that credit goes to them for influencing the cyber-world with various news contents. Google, Facebook and Twitter have further claimed that they, and not the media houses, spread news or related contents to countless internet-users or consumers through their respective platforms immediately after publishing of those contents by media houses. In other words, countless consumers of online news rely on Google or Facebook to get the information of their preference. Hence, these organisations deserve credit for creating the trust. According to Google, Facebook and Twitter, they drive internet users to media websites. They have also argued that millions of online news contents and countless consumers attract online advertisements, and Google, Facebook and other internet giants have every right to enjoy the money received from advertisers. Naturally, the internet giants shall never welcome any Law that will create trouble for them in generating revenues from advertisements.

The fact is that Google or Facebook do not create news contents, but only carry or (re)publish them. Media houses create those contents with the help of a huge structure that runs around-the-clock. Construction and operation of these structures is a costly affair, as it includes salaries of media professionals, and expenditure for maintaining the mechanical, technical and other infrastructure of news production. Quality news contents are produced with proper use of labour, money, time, thought process and research. Reputed media houses or organisations have come a long way to achieve excellence, as well as credibility.

According to experts, the importance of news content delivered by internet giants is based on the credibility of reputed media houses. Ordinary readers, too, prefer to read contents created by reputed media organisations. Hence, Google, Facebook or Twitter cannot claim the sole credit for their achievements and earnings. Unfortunately, there is no such law in India yet that could force internet giants to share their revenues with media houses. The Narendra Modi Government in New Delhi is trying hard to control social media, often in an undemocratic manner. However, the Government of India is reluctant to raise a fair argument in favour of revenue sharing between the media houses and internet giants. Time has come for the South Asian nation to learn a lesson from Australia, Canada and France.

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