The implementation of Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, by the Government of Canada has led Google to announce the removal of links to Canadian news from its Search, News, and Discover products within the country.
The new law, which introduces a “link tax”, requires companies to pay for displaying links to news content. Google argues that this decision creates uncertainty and imposes unlimited financial liability, posing a significant challenge to its products and services.
“The unprecedented decision to put a price on links (a so-called “link tax”) creates uncertainty for our products and exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers.”, wrote Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs.
Expressing disappointment, Google emphasises that it has been advocating for an alternative approach to support Canadian journalism, including through its Google News Showcase program. Through this initiative, the company has established agreements with over 150 Canadian news publishers, generating billions of links and traffic annually, estimated at $250 million CAD.
Both the Canadian government and Google were engaged in talks, but it seems the talks didn’t work out in the end. Google also proposed several amendments to the bill to make the legislation more workable for both platforms and publishers. However, none of the proposed amendments were accepted.
A week ago, Meta confirmed that it will remove news content from its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, for all Canadian users.
Bill C-18, modelled after Australia’s legislation, aims to address the issue of declining advertising revenue for Canadian news organisations by requiring tech giants like Google and Meta to enter into compensation agreements for using or linking to their content. Under the legislation, news outlets will have the opportunity to negotiate individual deals with tech companies.
In case of failed negotiations, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commissions (CRTC) would step in to mediate the dispute.
Although the Canadian government believes that this bill will inject approximately $329 million into the Canadian news industry, there are growing concerns that Bill C-18 may hinder Canadians’ access to news, impede journalists’ ability to reach their audiences and reduce valuable web traffic to Canadian publishers.