Three Australian publishers have accused Facebook of stealing their content without permission

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Three Australian lifestyle content providers claim that after declining to negotiate licensing terms, Facebook Inc utilized their pieces on its newly launched news service, and that the country’s strict new internet law failed to protect them.

Australia approved a bill this year threatening government interference if Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google did not make arrangements with some of the country’s largest news businesses.

The controversy has brought to light potential flaws in the contentious legislation. While the majority of Australia’s major media companies have signed agreements, some smaller publications claim that the rule has not prevented their material from generating clicks and advertising revenue for Facebook without remuneration.

Broadsheet Media, Urban List, and Concrete Playground, websites that provide entertainment news, reviews, and listings, said they approached the social media giant about payment for their content after the law was passed in February.

In a joint call with Reuters, Facebook rejected them, saying their content was unfit for its Facebook News platform and advising them to apply for funds from a A$15 million ($11 million) fund for Australian rural and digital newsrooms.

“They told me, ‘oh well, you’re not going to be listed in News tab, and that’s what we’re paying for,'” said Broadsheet Media founder Nick Shelton.

“All of our content was there when we woke up one morning last week, much to our astonishment.”

On August 4, Facebook News became available in Australia.

Facebook declined to comment specifically on the three companies, but did say that by driving viewers to their sites, it added value to publishers.

According to the rules, Facebook and Google must either negotiate payment settlements with outlets themselves or have a government-appointed arbitrator do it for them, but a publisher must first demonstrate that its primary aim is to produce news and that it has been unfairly excluded.

The three publishers have stated that if Facebook refuses to meet with them, they will seek government action.

“If we don’t get included in a commercial arrangement at the end of the day, then they need a stick,” Shelton added. “We are three excellent examples of publishers and media companies that should be included in this framework.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which drafted the law, said in an email that publishers must register as news providers with the Australian Communications and Media Authority “based on criteria including the levels of ‘core news’ (essentially public interest journalism) that they produce.”

The name Urban List has been added to the list. Broadsheet and Concrete Playground have yet to sign up, citing a desire to negotiate a private contract.

While Facebook had not broken the law because the matter was not yet before arbitration, Tama Leaver, an internet studies professor at Australia’s Curtin University, said the company’s apparent treatment of the three publishers was “extremely poor practice, disingenuous, and further disadvantages the smaller players in the news business arena.”

In a second case, the ACCC has said it will investigate a claim made by The Conversation, a publication that offers scholarly analysis on current events, that Facebook has refused to negotiate a licensing agreement. Google has agreed to work with The Conversation.

($1 = 1.3572 Australian dollars)

 

Source : Reuters

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