Nine European press agencies on Wednesday published an op-ed in Le Monde arguing that Google and Facebook should be required to pay copyright royalties on the third-party news and information they distribute and profit from. The article was published as the European Parliament is debating new legislation that would, according to Agence France-Presse, “make Facebook, Google, Twitter and other major players pay for the millions of news articles they use or link to.” The arguments laid out in the statement should have photojournalists, editorial photographers and anyone who cares about the fate of media organizations in the digital age, nodding in unison.
Despite earning the majority of dollars spent on digital advertising, Google and Facebook, the agencies wrote, “do not have journalists in Syria risking their lives, nor a bureau in Zimbabwe investigating Mugabe’s departure, nor editors to check and verify information sent in by reporters on the ground.” Reporting costs someone money, in other words, and if news and information are so essential to the user experience on Google, Facebook and other digital platforms, those companies should pay for that content.
“Access to free information is supposedly one of the great victories of the internet. But it is a myth,” the agencies wrote.
They also argued that the tech giants’ hoarding of ad dollars was a threat to democracy. “Free and reliable newsgathering is now threatened because the media will simply no longer be able to pay for it,” they said.
The coalition that authored the op-ed includes French agency AFP; Dutch agency ANP; Italian agency Ansa; Austria’s APA; Belgium’s Belga; German agency DPA; Spanish agency EFE; Britain’s Press Association; and Swedish agency TT.
Over the summer, Facebook announced they were working on a way to drive subscriptions for publishers who use their Instant Articles feature, which allows Facebook users to read news stories without leaving the Facebook platform. A group of publishers also announced in July that they were seeking collective bargaining rights so they could better negotiate with Facebook, Google and other online platforms that distribute news and information.
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