Microsoft, EU publishers are looking for payments for Australian-style news

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Microsoft is teaming up with European publishers to push for a system to make major technology platforms pay for news, raising the stakes in Australia’s brewing battle to get Google and Facebook to pay for journalism.

The technical giant in Seattle and four big ones European Union Newsgroups presented their plan on Monday to work together on a “payment authorization” solution for the use of online content by online “gatekeepers with dominant market power”.

They said they would be “inspired” by proposed legislation in Australia to force technology platforms to share revenue with news companies, which includes an arbitration system for resolving fair price disputes.

Facebook last week blocked Australians from accessing and sharing news on their platform in response to government proposals, but the surprise move caused a great public response and intensified the debate about how powerful the social network is. Googlemeanwhile, it has taken a different approach, concluding payment deals with news organizations after backing away from the initial threat to shut down its Australian search engine.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton expressed his support for Australia in the last sign that Facebook’s move was reversed.

“I think it is very unfortunate that the platform makes such decisions in protest of a country’s laws,” Breton told EU lawmakers. “It’s up to the platforms to adapt to regulators, not the other way around,” he said, adding that what is happening in Australia “underscores an attitude that needs to change.” Breton is leading a comprehensive overhaul of digital regulations in the EU, aimed at taming the power of large technology companies, amid growing fears that their algorithms are undermining democracy.

Microsoft joins forces with two lobby groups, the European Publishers’ Council and News Media Europe, together with two groups representing European publishers of newspapers and magazines, representing thousands of headlines. The company has expressed support for Australia’s plans, which could help increase its market share Bing search engine.

European Union countries are working to adopt by June revised copyright rules set by the EU executive that allow news companies and publishers to negotiate payments from digital platforms for online use of their content.

But there are concerns about the imbalance in the power of bargaining between the two sides, and the group has called for new measures to be added to the forthcoming revision of the digital regulations to address the problem.

Publishers “may not have the economic strength to negotiate fair and balanced agreements with those technology companies that would otherwise threaten to abandon negotiations or exit markets altogether,” the group said in a joint statement. Google and Facebook opposed the arbitration because it would give them less control over payment negotiations.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Google said it has already signed hundreds of partnerships with news publishers across Europe, making it one of the largest funding journalists, and noted on Twitter that it works with publishers and politicians across the EU, as Member States adopt copyright rules in national law.

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