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Pay up, Zuck: Canada allies with Australia in ‘battle’ against Facebook over news content

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said on Thursday that he would begin drafting legislation that could resemble Australia’s bid to make Facebook and other companies pay a licensing fee to feature domestically created content on their platforms. 

“Canada is at the forefront of this battle… we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this,” the minister told reporters. 

He said that Ottawa was also considering a less forceful approach. France, for example, has required tech companies to enter into negotiations with publishers regarding financial compensation, without forcing the issue. Guilbeault said the government was still deciding which model would be “the most appropriate,” adding that he was in consultations with colleagues in France, Australia, Germany and Finland about how to best secure compensation from Facebook.

The minister predicted that soon more than a dozen countries could adopt rules requiring the Silicon Valley behemoth to pay for news content.

The announcement comes days after Facebook blocked all Australian news content on its platform in response to draft legislation that would require it to pay fees to domestic outlets and publishers whose links and content appear on the site. 

Guilbeault said that Facebook would be unable to take similar actions if more countries followed suit, describing the company’s approach to the issue as “totally unsustainable.”

Facebook isn’t the only tech giant in Ottawa’s crosshairs. Guilbeault said that Google could also be subject to future legislation. At the moment, the company is currently in talks with Canadian publishers about using content for its News Showcase service. Google has already reached a deal with Australian outlets, bypassing the current conflict between Canberra and Facebook. 

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