Digital Publishing Platforms
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Europe’s press publishers & Microsoft call for Australian-style arbitration mechanism

Europe’s press publishers and Microsoft have struck an agreement to collaborate on a solution to ensure that Europe’s press publishers get paid for the use of their content by the Silicon Valley tech giants.

Industry trade bodies, including the European Publishers Council, European Magazine Media Association, News Media Europe, and European Newspaper Publishers’ Association have stipulated the solution “should mandate payments for the use of press publishers’ content by these gatekeepers and should include arbitration provisions, to ensure that fair agreements are negotiated.

“Such provisions should consider the model established by the Australian law, which enables an arbitral panel to establish a fair price based on an assessment of the benefits derived by each side in having the news content included on these gatekeepers’ platforms, the costs of producing this content, and any undue burden an amount would place on the platforms themselves.”

The agreement is in line with the objectives of the EU Digital Single Market Copyright Directive, which comes into force this June and takes its inspiration from the new Australian legislation that requires the tech gatekeepers to share revenue with news organisations.

“The experiences in France and Australia have shown us that there’s a real need for a binding instrument to address inherent imbalances in bargaining power with gatekeepers, which undermine the potential of Europe’s press sector.”

Fernando de Yarza, President of News Media Europe

Key to the proposal is an arbitration mechanism that becomes legally binding to protect smaller publishers who “might not have the economic strength to negotiate fair and balanced agreements with gatekeeper tech companies, who might otherwise threaten to walk away from negotiations or exit markets entirely.”

The……binding regulation….must include an obligation for market-dominant platforms to enter into negotiations with all rightsholders of the Publishers’ right and offer fair payment for their content.”

Xavier Bouckaert, President of EMMA

Using the example of Australia is a double-edged sword. Rather than pay media companies in return for linking to their stories, Facebook last week blocked sharing of news on its platform in the country, which saw traffic to Australian news sites fall by around 13% (within the country), compared to the day before the ban.

However, according to Chartbeat, experience has shown that in the absence of Facebook, people go directly to publishers’ mobile apps and sites (as well as to search engines) to get their information.

Facebook’s gamble is that Australia won’t be able to live without it. Imagine the consequences if we prove that we can.

Lenore Taylor, Guardian Australia’s editor

The inclusion of Microsoft in the negotiations has also raised eyebrows, although the owner of the Bing browser (7% global share) states that it has already been, “investing and supporting local media through Microsoft news and sharing a large portion of revenue with press publishers”.

Whilst this publisher-friendly stance is in direct contrast to the strongarm position of Google (and Facebook), critics have suggested that if Google withdraws its search services from a market, the Bing browser is set to benefit and Microsoft gains market share as well as a sizeable PR victory. if history has taught us one thing about the U.S. tech giants, selflessness is usually not the determining factor in their decision-making.