Microsoft Wants Big Tech To Pay Up For News

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Microsoft is making some new friends… but drawing the ire of its Big Tech peers in the process.

The company is teaming up with European news publishers to develop an Australian-style arbitration system that would force firms like Google and Facebook to pay for news content on their platforms.

Taking Cues From Down Under

From congressional inquiries to the celebrity Twitter hack, it’s been a year of reckoning for many tech giants. But one of Big Tech’s founding fathers, Microsoft, has largely escaped unwanted attention.

And now the Seattle-based company is getting on the good side of the press, while pouncing on the missteps of its Silicon Valley rivals:

  • Microsoft announced Monday it is working with Europe’s top 4 news publisher lobby groups to develop a system that forces internet gatekeepers with “dominant market power” to pay for news content.
  • The publisher lobby groups, which together represent thousands of news outlets, are aiming to work their plan into the E.U.’s impending Big Tech legislation.

The coalition is taking notes on Australia’s new arbitration system, which could give regulators power to demand Facebook and Google pay Aussie publishers each time someone clicks a news link on their websites.

Microsoft President Brad Smith explained the tech giants’ unfair edge, saying “News content is creating real benefits for these platforms. At the same time, the use of these platforms is eroding the traditional economic base for independent journalism.”

Of course, Microsoft isn’t just a charitable benefactor of journalism. In pushing for reforms, the company hopes to promote its own Bing search engine as a copyright-friendly news source.

The Australian School of Economics

Australia’s recent mandates on news content have caught the attention of regulators across the globe:

  • Canada is already prepping Aussie-style laws and the UK is looking at implementing aspects of the system in its own legal code.

The E.U. is in the midst of a copyright law overhaul, but some European Parliament members argue that without an Australian-style arbitration system, Big Tech firms will still be able to shaft European publishers.

Same Problem, Different Response: Google and Facebook have predictably been vocal opponents of Australia’s reforms. Facebook has gone as far as boycotting Australian news on its platform. Google, meanwhile, backed down and opened its wallet – striking a deal last week with Australian publishers.