Bill C-18 is a failed shakedown, and even those who pushed for it the most vehemently seem to be figuring it out.
Tech companies have a lot of money, because they innovated and provided a service people freely chose to use.
Many legacy media outlets are in a dire financial situation, because they failed to innovate and failed to provide a product that people wanted to consume.
The correct response to this situation would be to start innovating and adapting.
And while much of the legacy media failed to do this, many independent media outlets and content creators have emerged in Canada.
That’s the market working as it should.
But that’s not what News Media Canada – a lobby group for “the print and digital media industry” wanted.
They felt entitled to tech companies’ money, despite having done nothing to earn that money.
And they sought to use government power to take it.
That’s what Bill C-18 is really all about.
It was about shaking down tech companies and taking their money so it could be redistributed to failing legacy media outlets.
The fact that the legislation also hurts independent outlets was surely seen as a bonus by those advocating for Bill C-18.
However, News Media Canada and other Bill C-18 backers failed to accurately assess the power balance.
Canadian media companies need big social media companies.
Big social media companies don’t need Canadian media companies.
So, rather than give in to an obvious shakedown attempt, both Facebook and Google have made clear they will simply reject the shakedown by disallowing Canadian news links on their platforms.
Facebook has already done so, and Google is likely to do something similar.
A changing tone?
Reacting to the likely move by Google to end news link sharing in Canada on their platform, we are starting to see a change in tone – and no, I’m not talking about the Prime Minister’s questionable past costume choices.
Rather, News Media Canada is now admitting that Google has legitimate concerns regarding the legislation:
“A Canadian news industry body on Thursday lent support to some of Google’s concerns about a new law that aims to make large internet companies share advertising revenue with news publishers in the country.
Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google has made a “good faith articulation of legitimate concerns” that the Canadian government should address while finalizing rules to implement the law, said News Media Canada (NMC), which represents Canada’s top newspapers, including the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.
“We are in agreement with many of the issues they have raised,” NMC Chief Executive Officer Paul Deegan said in a statement first reported by the Globe.”
This is a huge climbdown by News Media Canada, given that they – along with the government and other Bill C-18 backers – spent months dismissing any and all criticism and warnings about the damage the legislation was going to cause.
All of Bill C-18’s critics have been fully vindicated, and News Media Canada is now reduced to trying to settle for less than they could have gotten had they simply done nothing at all.
Consider that before Bill C-18, the Canadian media had full access to getting their content shared on Facebook, and nobody was even thinking that links on Google would be imperiled.
By getting greedy, and by demanding government intervention rather than competing in the free market, News Media Canada helped set in motion a series of events that not only resulted in ZERO new money for the legacy press, but also resulted in the loss of link sharing on Facebook, the probable loss of link sharing on Google, and the cancellation of significant funding support through journalism funds and scholarships that large tech companies had been providing in Canada.
It is a total defeat, and this should be a lesson for those business that seek to leverage state power against their competitors rather than competing through providing a better service.