An update on Canada’s Bill C-18 and our Search and News products

How we tried to improve Bill C-18

We already pay to support Canadian journalism through our programs and partnerships – and we’ve been clear we’re prepared to do more. As part of our Google News Showcase program, we have negotiated agreements covering over 150 news publications across Canada. Last year alone, we linked to Canadian news publications more than 3.6 billion times — at no charge — helping publishers make money through ads and new subscriptions. This referral traffic from links has been valued at $250 million CAD annually. We’re willing to do more; we just can’t do it in a way that breaks the way that the web and search engines are designed to work, and that creates untenable product and financial uncertainty.

Ever since the Government introduced C-18 last year, we have shared our experiences in other countries and been clear that unworkable legislation could lead to changes that affect the availability of news on Google’s products in Canada.

We have successfully collaborated with Governments and news publishers around the world on the shared goal of strengthening the news industry, and we currently have thousands of mutually beneficial agreements with news publications around the world.

We tried to take this same approach with Bill C-18. We repeatedly offered constructive feedback and recommended solutions that would have made it more workable for both platforms and publishers, unlocking further financial support for Canadian journalism. We also endorsed the alternative model of an independent fund for Canadian journalism supported by both platforms and the Government, an approach that’s worked elsewhere. We appeared several times before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications and submitted detailed recommendations to both committees.

We advocated for reasonable and balanced amendments to the legislation for over a year. None of our suggestions for changes to C-18 were accepted.

Last week, just as the Bill was approaching final passage and Royal Assent, the Government agreed to discuss the possibility of addressing some of the most critical issues, which we welcomed. In that discussion, we asked for clarity on financial expectations platforms face for simply linking to news, as well as a specific, viable path towards exemption based on our programs to support news and our commercial agreements with publishers.

While we appreciate the Government’s acknowledgement that our concerns were reasonable and confirmation that the law will not apply until they adopt implementing regulations, they have not provided us with sufficient certainty that the regulatory process will be able to resolve structural issues with the legislation (such as forced payment for links and uncapped financial liability).

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