Canada’s Bill C-18 to Force Internet Giants to Pay for Links to News Stories

The federal government announced on Tuesday the Online News Act, known as Bill C-18. The act seeks to “establish a new legislative and regulatory framework”, where news media and journalists will be paid by social media giants to share news links.

According to Ottawa, over 450 news outlets have shut down since 2008, with 60 alone in the past two years. Advertising revenues have moved to social media digital gatekeepers, “who profit from the sharing and distribution of Canadian news content.”

The government goes on to say 2020 online advertising hit $9.7 billion in Canada, with “two companies” (likely Google and Facebook) taking in 80% of revenues, and it was now “time to address this market imbalance.”

The government says Bill C-18 would force tech giants to “make fair commercial deals with outlets for the news and information that is shared on their platforms.” Media outlets of all sizes would be able to “bargain collectively” with tech giants, which would be “fundamentally fairer for Canadian news media.”

Canada says its Online News Act is similar to recent laws in Australia, but adds “greater public accountability and transparency to the process.” The government says the new law will “Canadians have access to quality, fact-based news at the local and national levels.”

“A free and independent press is fundamental to our democracy. It’s how we stay informed and engaged on what’s happening in our communities and across the country. Right now, the health and future of the news industry—especially local news—are at risk. We want to make sure that the news media and journalists are fairly compensated for their work. Now more than ever, Canadians need reliable and credible information, especially in a time of greater mistrust and disinformation,” said Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage, in a statement.

Rodriguez appeared on the Evan Solomon Show on Tuesday and was asked why tech giants needed to pay for links. The minister said it was because links have value and should be compensated, according to the answer shared by Michael Geist.

Solomon then asks, “can you justify why links are compensatory?”, to which Rodriguez answers, “because there’s value to that. If you click on the link and go to the news, there’s a value to that.”

A breakdown of Bill C-18 by University of Ottawa Law professor, Michael Geist, can be seen below:

It would seem traditional news media are losing out to the likes of Google and Facebook because they don’t possess the technology or capability to create their own digital advertising businesses. It’s odd legislation because when news links are shared on social networks, click-throughs still load advertisements on news websites, but this law would make companies pay for clicks to begin with.