Canadian Government Reaches Deal with Google on Online News Act

Daniel Thibeault and David Cochrane, CBC News:

Google and the federal government have reached an agreement in their dispute over the Online News Act that would see Google continue to share Canadian news online in return for the company making annual payments to news companies in the range of $100 million.

Sources told Radio-Canada and CBC News earlier Wednesday that an agreement had been reached. Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge confirmed the news Wednesday afternoon.

It was only a couple of months ago that Google said it would be unable to comply with this legislation. According to the CBC, changes were recently made to permit Google to negotiate with publishers through a single representative instead of individually.

As I have written many times here, losing referrals from Meta was irritating but not that meaningful for publishers; at least, not until Threads was launched. But losing Google referrals would have been a blow.

I remain skeptical of the utility of this law, and worried about the precedent it sets. A link tax, even when restricted to just very large companies of a specific type, undermines the way the web works. Also, even though the government looks like it won — in the eyes of those who treat politics like sports — this law has produced less than half its total predicted effect. Not good. I would normally celebrate a democratic policy win, but this is a poor law with effects that are not good, merely not as bad as things could have been.