Google says Australian pay-for-news ruling puts 'free services at risk'

The Australian government replied that Google's letter contains "misinformation."

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, UNITED STATES - 2020/02/23: American multinational technology company Google logo seen at Googleplex, the corporate headquarters complex of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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In an open letter, Google has warned users in Australia that free search and YouTube services are “at risk” if Australia implements a proposed law compelling it to pay to link to news services. Google has also paused a news licensing system it started earlier this year, according to the Financial Post. Finally, it warned that “big news businesses” could demand extra revenue beyond what they earn on YouTube ads, leaving a smaller share for individual creators.

“We already pay [news services] millions of dollars and send them billions of free clicks every year,” Google Australia’s managing director Mel Silva wrote. “But rather than encouraging these types of partnerships, the law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk.”

Google’s YouTube blog pits large publishers like News Corp against individual creators. “Under this law, big news businesses can seek access to data about viewers’ use of our products,” it wrote. “They could use [that data to] try to appear higher in rankings on YouTube, disadvantaging all other creators.” The company added that the rule would compromise user data protection.

Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC), said that Google’s open letter “contains misinformation” about free search and YouTube services. “Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so,” the ACCC wrote in response. “Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”

Google is fighting similar laws in Europe, particularly in France and Spain. After France implemented a similar law, Google said it would simply remove news previews to avoid paying publishers. However, the French government ordered it to negotiate fees with publishers, essentially arguing that Google is a search monopoly and must be regulated as such.

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