ACCC to develop mandatory code aimed at compelling big tech to pay for valuable content

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Copyright Agency welcomes the joint announcement by the ACCC and the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address commercial arrangements between digital platforms and news media businesses.

While the announcement represents a step forward, the effectiveness of the code is one hundred percent dependent on the details. The mandatory code must contain provisions that are strong enough to ensure that big tech cannot game it and avoid payment for the use of valuable news content.

“The evidence from Europe is that big tech plays a ruthless game in seeking to circumvent regulatory action aimed at ensuring they pay for their use of news content,” says Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling. “Effective reporting, public interest journalism and important investments and jobs are all at stake here, so we must get the code right.”

Last year, the ACCC was directed by the Government to facilitate the development of voluntary codes to address bargaining power imbalances between digital platforms and news media businesses. If agreement was unable to be reached, the Government indicated that it would consider alternate options, including a mandatory code.

Mr Suckling referenced the ACCC’s role in solving this power imbalance in an op-ed that appeared in The Weekend Australian on Saturday 7 March 2020.

Given the significant pressure faced by the media sector (further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic) and the limited progress on the voluntary code, the Government has instructed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code which includes the sharing of data; the ranking and display of news content; and the monetisation and sharing of revenue generated from news. In addition, it will establish appropriate enforcement, penalty and binding dispute resolution mechanisms.

Further details of the announcement can be found here.

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