[This guest post dated 9th April, 2021 is authored by Prachi Sahay, Third Year Law Student – National Law University Odisha. Any query regarding this article can be addressed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) is an independent body that acts as a central agency for all press organisations in India. It was formed in 1939, and represents Indian media, mostly newspapers even today. Recently, INS wrote a letter to tech giant Google, demanding that Google should pay for the news generated by the newspapers that appear in its search results. They feel that the advertising revenue should be shared adequately.
The INS pointed out that Indian publishers have been providing complete access to quality journalism with credible news. They employ thousands of journalists and incur considerable expense for gathering and verifying this information. INS claimed that Google has been a success due to its authenticity which is because of the publisher’s hard work. In such a case, it would only be fair for Google to share its advertising revenue, considering that any media house’s primary source of revenue is from advertisements.
In light of this, INS demanded that the publisher share of advertising should be increased to 85%. They also scorned Google’s opaque advertising system, and urged them to make the revenue reports provided to publishers more transparent. Another issue raised by INS in their letter was the need to give greater prominence to editorial content from Registered New Publishers. They feel that Google picking up content from various non-credible sites ‘amplifies misinformation and propagation of fake news’.
It is important to note that this demand comes in light of two events – similar demands being raised in other countries and the negative effect of COVID-19 on Indian publishing houses. They had previously pointed out that the pandemic clubbed with a digital business model have made it unviable for the print media industry. While these are the immediate causes, there are deeper reasons. The concepts of data privacy and data being an economic entity are now concrete ideas. While India is yet to pass the Data Protection Bill, most countries have such regulations in place.
As to the question of whether it should be done or not, there are many reasons as to why it should. Firstly, it would help local news publishers. In a democracy like India, authentic and verified news is very important, something that takes a considerable amount of resources to gather. Now that newspapers are obsolete, even more so after the pandemic, news publishers often operate on minimal revenue. Secondly, it would increase the government’s tax revenue, with news publishers getting paid heftily by tech giants.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it is the right thing to do. It is a fact that Google earns a lot of money from displaying these news items. Their authenticity and accuracy gives Google authenticity, and helps it retain its position. While it is understandable that even the news publishers earn from people finding their articles on Google, the company seems to be better off in this scheme of things. This is especially true when it shows us snippets of news items on searching for it, which sometimes gives away the very core of the news, eliminating the need to actually click on the link.
A Global Perspective
A similar demand was made by French Publisher’s lobby, who demanded Google to compensate them for the news they provided. After months of debates and discussions, the matter went before their competition authority.They ruled that Google must pay French publishing companies and news-agencies for re-using their content. One of the major considerations in this decision was the fragile economic condition of the publishers, especially in the time of a global pandemic. Recently, Google and the publisher’s lobby agreed to a copyright framework under which the publishers will be adequately compensated.
A similar thing happened in Australia in February, when the government passed a new law requiring Google and Facebook to pay for the news content they are showing. This faced considerable opposition from both the companies, with Google even threatening to remove its search engine from the country. However, it did not do so. Rather, it entered into agreements with media organisations to pay them for their content. The Australian law (The News Media Bargaining Code) requires Facebook and Google to pay a negotiated fee to use the content or display its link. In fact, this law also looks to expand to other platforms in the future.
In fact, even the European Union (EU) is in the process of making a law similar to that of Australia. The recently proposed EU Digital Services and Digital Markets acts may impose similar obligations on the tech giants. EU is known to have taken the lead in data protection and privacy laws, having drafted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016, a law under which it has fined several companies.
While it only seems fair for Google to pay Indian news publishers, a question arises as to its implementation. For that, it is absolutely necessary to have a data protection regulation in place. Once that is established, and an authority is tasked with adjudicating such matters, the parties can negotiate the terms of the compensation.
The opinions expressed by the Author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Daily Law Times Private Limited (DLTPL) or any employee thereof. DLTPL is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Guest Author. This work is the opinion of the Author. It is not the intention of DLTPL to malign any organization, company, or individual and not be considered as Legal Opinion.