News Media Canada (NMC), the lobby group representing the major newspaper publishers in Canada, released a new report yesterday calling for the creation of a government digital media regulatory agency that would have the power to establish mandated payments for linking to news articles, establish what content is prioritized on social media sites, require companies to disclose algorithmic changes, hand over moderation control of content on news stories to the publishers, and potentially issue fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has made “get money from web giants” his top legislative priority and has expressed support for mandated licensing for links.
The report, which inaccurately describes the ill-advised Australian approach to licensing links to news articles, is notable for many of the things it does not say. For example, one could easily read the 41 page report and not realize that companies such as Google and Facebook do not publish full versions of news articles without a licence. Indeed, rather than “taking” content, links to news articles are posted by their users, which then send interested readers back to the original source. In fact, the media companies themselves are typically responsible for posting their own articles and granting a licence for their use.