AG reaffirms support for antitrust exemption for digital news producers

The Authors Guild welcomes the revision of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) that was released on August 22, 2022, by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that includes Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Senator John Kennedy (R-LA); Representative David Cicilline (D-RI); Representative Ken Buck (R-CO); and Senate and House Judiciary Committee Chairs Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The revised draft is a comprehensive rewrite of the bill (H.R. 1735 & S. 673), which was first introduced in 2019, and again last year.

The JCPA gives print, broadcast, and digital news companies limited immunity from antitrust laws to allow them to collectively negotiate with large internet platforms. The proposed legislation is meant to blunt some of the devastating revenue losses that news publishers have experienced in recent years and to buttress newsrooms and local news outlets across the country.

“Large internet platforms like Google and Facebook have used digital news content without obtaining licenses from the publishers, arguing that displaying headlines, snippets, and in many cases entire articles on their sites was fair use,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “They aggregate news articles from all over the internet to increase eyeballs and provide enough of the news content on their services to keep users on their sites, rather than jump to the news media sites for their news. Together, Google and Facebook have siphoned up tens of millions of dollars in annual advertising revenue from news publications, and nearly cratered journalism. The JCPA will allow news producers to leverage their collective resources to negotiate fair shares of those ad revenues, which is something an individual publication or news company has no ability to do alone against the internet behemoths.”

Similar laws recently adopted in other countries have proven to be effective in bringing the platforms to the table to negotiate with news companies. For example, in Australia, both Google and Facebook have entered into agreements to compensate some news publishers for the right to use their content in response to a bargaining code that forces platforms to pay news publishers or face fines.

The Authors Guild has supported the JCPA with the qualification that it must require news producers to invest the funds they receive through the collective negotiations back into news production, especially local and regional journalism, and to pay journalists instead of simply putting revenues towards profits. In February, we sent a letter to JCPA lead sponsor Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is also chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, and Senator Mike Lee, ranking member of the Subcommittee, requesting the addition of language to this effect. The latest drafts of the JCPA take our concerns into account, and we are grateful to the co-sponsors of both bills for including provisions that prioritize reinvestment in journalism.

Click here to read the revised bill.