Canada on Tuesday (Apr 5) laid out details of a proposed legislation that would compel platforms like Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content, in a move similar to Australia's ground-breaking law passed last year.
"The news sector in Canada is in crisis," Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said at a news conference, introducing the bill put forward by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government.
The "Online News Act," or House of Commons Bill C-18, will require digital platforms that have a bargaining imbalance, measured by metrics like a firm's global revenue, with news businesses to make fair deals, that would then be assessed by a regulator.
If such deals do not meet a set of criteria detailed in the act, the platforms would have to go through mandatory bargaining and final offer arbitration processes overseen by the Canadian Radio‑television and Telecommunications regulator.
The law would work similarly to the one in Australia, which made it mandatory for Alphabet's Google and Meta Platforms-owned Facebook to pay media companies for content on their platforms in reforms that have been heralded as a model for others to copy.
Canada's news media industry has pressed against Facebook and asked the government for more regulation of tech companies, to allow the industry to recoup financial losses it has suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have been steadily gaining greater market shares of advertising.
More than 450 news outlets in Canada have closed since 2008, including 64 closures in the last two years.
Facebook and Google have voluntarily agreed to invest around C$1 billion (US$800 million) each, over three years, on journalism initiatives globally. Rodriguez said the government held discussions with both firms.
"They were open to regulations ... those conversations were very frank, honest and nice," he said.
Both Google and Facebook, in separate statements, said they were reviewing the proposed legislation and looked forward to working with the government.
The legislation would cover news businesses operating in Canada, including newspapers and news magazines with a digital presence, and allow them to bargain individually as well as in groups.