Paying Their Dues: Google Agrees To Pay Canadian Publishers For Content

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This time of year, they say it’s the thought that counts.

Well, as good as $70+ million a year does sound, it’s as much the thought that Google is even willing to pay for news that’s making publishers worldwide particularly jolly.

Google has agreed to pay Canadian publishers an annual fee of CA$100 million so that the tech giant may keep their news content in its search results. This follows the passing of Canada’s Bill C-18, known as the Online News Act, this summer, which Google responded to by threatening, “when the law takes effect, we unfortunately will have to remove links to Canadian news from our Search, News and Discover products in Canada.”

In a statement this week, Kent Walker, Google & Alphabet’s President of Global Affairs, said, “we are pleased that the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18, which included the need for a streamlined path to an exemption at a clear commitment threshold. While we work with the government through the exemption process based on the regulations that will be published shortly, we will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers.”

In her own statement regarding the payment, Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said that the deal would give Google the option to work with a collective, instead of individual publishers, to “distribute its contribution to all interested eligible news businesses based on the number of full-time equivalent journalists engaged by those businesses.”

The agreed-upon compensation is lower than the CA$172 million officials had wanted — to say nothing of the approximately $14 billion that one estimate says U.S. publishers are entitled to — and obviously it alone won’t mint all publishers north of the border. But what’s interesting are the ripple effects this deal would have for other companies and in the United States.

For its part, Meta, in a statement following news of the Google deal, said “unlike search engines, we do not proactively pull news from the internet to place in our users’ feeds and we have long been clear that the only way we can reasonably comply with the Online News Act is by ending news availability for people in Canada.”

For many, this news has to feel as much a loss for Google’s cause as it does a win for publishers. Just look at the headlines. Fortune said Google “blinks first,” while MediaPost went with “antes up.” Google now committing to a Canadian number only establishes a floor, not a ceiling, from which U.S. publishers (and legislators) can build. 

The News/Media Alliance applauded the Canadian government for reaching the deal, with President and CEO Danielle Coffey saying it proves that legislation is “the only path to sustained right to payment for the fair market value of our quality content.”

“The U.S. must stand up for our vibrant journalism industry and not fall behind other countries,” Coffey says, pointing to the California Journalism Preservation Act that she hopes sees momentum following Canada’s deal with Google. “Big Tech cannot continue to harm local news. Congress must protect our democracy and our constitutional right to a free press by implementing legislation that will help sustain quality journalism in America.”


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