News Media Canada, the lobby group representing the major newspaper publishers in Canada recently launched a new campaign that calls for the creation of a government digital media regulatory agency that would have the power to establish mandated payments by Internet companies merely for linking to news articles. But not everyone in the sector – or even within News Media Canada – agrees with the position.
Jeff Elgie is the CEO and majority shareholder of Village Media, a digital-only media organization that operates local news and community websites throughout Ontario. He joins the Law Bytes podcast this week to talk about operating local news sites in the current environment, why he welcomes referral traffic from companies like Facebook and Google, and why though he respects News Media Canada, he hopes that a new association will emerge that better represents the diversity of news media in Canada.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who says his top legislative priority is to “get money from web giants”, has discussed creating a new mandated licence for social media linking to news articles. Guilbeault calls the practice “immoral” and envisions using the Copyright Board of Canada to create a tariff for linking to news articles accompanied by new government powers to levy penalties for failure to comply. Last week, I looked at a single Toronto Star article to see its engagement on Facebook. Using the CrowdTangle Chrome extension, I found that virtually all public engagement with the article came from a Facebook post that the Toronto Star posted itself.
Today’s post expands on that approach by examining a larger group of articles all taken from single day. This post looks at 36 original articles posted to the Star’s website on the morning of October 14, 2020. The day was selected at random and while most Facebook posts take place within the first 24 hours, I waited five days before examining the social media engagement with the articles to give time for potential posts and shares. The Star’s website changes throughout the day, so recreating the day’s paper is difficult. Instead, I endeavoured to include all new Toronto Star-originated articles that had been posted over the prior 20 hours (thereby including articles posted on both October 13th and the morning of the 14th). Articles from wire news services (which is the majority of foreign news stories, sports stories, and some national stories) were excluded as they are licensed by the Star and can be found from many sources online.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has called the practice of linking to news articles on social media sites such as Facebook “immoral” and indicated that he plans to establish a new mandated licensing requirement that would be overseen by the Copyright Board of Canada and backed by the threat of government penalties for failure to comply. Guilbeault’s plan, which is part of his “get money from web giants” legislative priority, could result in Facebook blocking all sharing of news articles in Canada, which would harm Canadian media organizations, the broader public, and contribute to increased profile for questionable or misleading sources of news.
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