Washington— The Canadian Parliament passed legislation that would require internet services to pay fees when linking to news content. The Online News Act, C-18, has now received Royal Assent and entered into law.
The law introduces an obligation for selected online platforms to negotiate payment to Canadian media companies for the display of news content that media companies themselves post on platforms or choose to make available for indexing, including hyperlinks or snippets.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association has long opposed government-mandated revenue transfers between companies based on arbitrary factors. The provisions of the Online News Act threaten an open, accessible internet by assigning arbitrary value and forcing payment for hyperlinks. This introduces a “must-carry” and “must-pay” obligation for online platforms that could undermine routine content moderation practices and could further incentivize clickbait journalism. CCIA also noted in a White Paper the potential violations of Canada’s trade obligations under the U.S.-Mexico Canada Agreement.
The following can be attributed to Jonathan McHale, Vice President of Digital Trade:
“We are disappointed to see the Online News Act pass without much-needed guardrails to protect information-sharing online and the viability of internet platforms’ business models in Canada. Ensuring a robust and resilient news sector is critical to any democracy, but this law will not advance that goal. Rather, it will hinder it, undermining the critical role that internet platforms play as a resource for news publishers, reporters, citizens, and companies both digital and traditional.
“It is hardly surprising that a company, when faced with uncapped financial liability due to an arbitrary and discriminatory law, would look to exit a market. This would be a loss for all: for internet platforms, whose goal is to make information more easily accessible for the largest number of consumers and for Canadian news businesses, particularly small ones, which benefit from traffic sent their way.”