On March 10, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act was reintroduced in Congress with bipartisan support. This bill (which was originally introduced in 2019) would allow news publishers to collectively negotiate with digital platforms such as Google and Facebook for the use of their stories on these online platforms for at least the next four years. It follows a bipartisan Congressional investigation into the power of the online marketplace and its impact on journalism.
House Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), House Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-CO), and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) reintroduced the bill in the House of Representatives, and the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) reintroduced the bill in the Senate. Journalism has suffered greatly over the past decade, in part because of the market dominance of platforms such as Google and Facebook. As Sen. Klobuchar said: “We must enable news organizations to negotiate on a level playing field with the big tech companies if we want to preserve a strong and independent press.”
The Authors Guild supports this legislation, as we wrote when it was first introduced in 2019. “A strong, diverse, free press is critical for any successful democracy,” as the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Cicilline stated. According to the Pew Research Center, overall newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%, from approximately 114,000 jobs in 2008 to around 88,000 jobs in 2019. As co-sponsor Rep. DeSaulnier recognized, “As the industry continues its transition to digital distribution, tech companies get rich, but news organizations are barely hanging on.”
Other countries have already made strides in addressing this imbalance. Australia has introduced a new bargaining code forcing online platforms to pay news publishers for their content or else be subject to large fines; in response, both Google and Facebook have entered into agreements to compensate some news publishers for the right to use their content. Article 15 of the E.U. Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (which was enacted by the E.U. in June 2019) provides that the reproduction of more than single words or very short extracts of a news story must be licensed; this means that online platforms in the E.U. can no longer continue their practice of utilizing news stories with little or no compensation to the news providers that generate them. The E.U. members have until this June to implement the directive.
We hope the bill is able to gain traction this time in both the House and the Senate. So far, there are 10 co-sponsors of the bill in the House, and five in the Senate. We will continue to monitor its progress and will advise our membership accordingly.