A few weeks ago, the news was abuzz with the controversy over an Australian law that would make social media companies and even search engines pay for their making available content originating with traditional media outlets. While the controversy was hot, there were articles in many general interest publications asking whether that model could work outside Australia – and perhaps whether such a bill could even be adopted in the US. What has received far less notice in the popular press was a US version of that bill that was recently introduced in Congress to address some of the same issues. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021 was not introduced in response to the Australian law, but instead it is an idea that pre-dated the overseas action. Versions of the US bill have been introduced in prior sessions of Congress, though it never before gained much attention. But this year’s version has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, has already been the subject of a Congressional committee hearing, and has gained support (including from the National Association of Broadcasters and even the tech company Microsoft).
The intent of these bills, and other similar legislation considered across the world, is to open a new revenue stream for traditional media outlets which cover local news – outlets that have been hit hard by the online media revolution over the last 25 years. As we have noted in other contexts (see for instance our articles here and here), as huge digital media platforms have developed in this century, these platforms have taken away over half the local advertising revenue in virtually all media markets – revenues that had supported local journalism. The perception is that this has been done without significantly adding to the coverage of local issues and events in these markets. We certainly have seen the economics of the newspaper industry severely impacted, with many if not most newspapers cutting staff and local coverage, and even how often the papers are published. Broadcasting, too, has felt the impact. Many legislators across the globe have come to the conclusion that these digital platforms attract audiences by featuring content created by the traditional media sources that have been so impacted by online operations. To preserve and support original news sources, various ways in which the content creators can be compensated for the use of their works, such as the legislation in the US and Australia, are being explored. We thought it worth looking at proposed legislation in the US and comparing it to the more extensive legislation introduced in Australia, and to highlight some of the issues that may arise in connection with such regulatory proposals.
Continue Reading Making the Tech Giants Pay to Use Traditional Media News Content – Looking at the Legislative Issues