6 August 2021CopyrightRory O'Neill

Italy to make platforms pay for news: reports

Tech platforms such as Google and Facebook will soon have to deal with new rules around how much they should pay Italian news publishers for content, according to reports.

A draft decree seen by Reuters will empower Italy’s communication regulator to set criteria for how much platforms should pay to license publishers’ news content.

EU-wide copyright reforms agreed in 2019 entitle publishers to fair remuneration from platforms for the use of their content online. The specifics of the Copyright Directive vary according to how it is implemented by each member state.

If a licence agreement can’t be reached, either side will be able to appeal to the regulator to establish a fair rate. Platforms will also be prohibited from blocking publishers’ content in order to gain leverage during negotiations.

Platforms such as Google and Facebook have long resisted efforts to force them to pay for news content online, however the approval of the 2019 Copyright Directive appeared to settle the issue in principle in the EU at least.

Other countries have also explored similar rules to ensure platforms can’t use news content for free. Earlier this year, Facebook temporarily blocked Australian users from sharing news on the platform, amid a dispute with the government over a proposed law requiring it to pay publishers.

Facebook subsequently reversed the policy in February after holding talks with government officials about amendments to the law, which was approved that month.

A mandatory arbitration process, strongly opposed by the platforms, was devised instead as a ‘last resort’, and will only take place if commercial agreements cannot be reached and a two-month mediation process is unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, a French publishers’ association reached a deal with Google whereby individual publishers would negotiate a licence for their content to be displayed on the platform.

The European Commission is currently investigating 23 EU member states over their delays in fully implementing the 2019 Copyright Directive.

The delays largely concern Article 17, which imposes monitoring obligations on platforms with respect to copyright-protected content, and separate rules on the online transmission of radio and TV broadcasts.

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