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Australia's political opposition to support Facebook, Google legislation - sources

Colin Packham
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Smartphone with Google app icon is seen in front of the displayed Australian flag in this illustration

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's political opposition will support proposed legislation that would force Alphabet's Google and Facebook to pay publishers and broadcasters for content, two sources briefed on the matter said.

Prospects for the bill, which the U.S. tech giants fiercely oppose, are being widely watched around the world as other countries are expected to follow suit if Australia is successful in its efforts.

Lawmakers from Australia's centre-left Labor party endorsed the bill at a meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, said the sources, who were not authorised to speak to media on the matter and declined to be identified.

It needs support from the opposition as Prime Minister Scott Morrison's ruling Liberal party does not have a majority in the country's upper house. The bill is expected to be voted on in parliament as soon as this week.

Representatives for Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.

Google has described the legislation as "unworkable" and has threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australia. Both companies are lobbying hard for the legislation to be softened, with senior executives holding talks with Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Google has asked for series of changes, most notably having its new platform, Showcase, covered by the legislation rather than search results generated.

This week, Australia's Seven West Media Ltd became the country's first major news outlet to strike a licensing deal with Google.

In doing so, it has split from rivals News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd which have failed to reach agreements with Google and instead backed the legislation which calls for an arbiter to set content fees in the absence of a private deal.

Outside Australia, Google and a French publishers' lobby group agreed in January to a copyright framework for the tech firm to pay news publishers for content online.

Last month, Reuters said it had signed a deal with Google to be the first global news provider to Google News Showcase. Reuters is owned by news and information provider Thomson Reuters Corp.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)