November 29 Update:
We thank the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, for acknowledging our concerns and deeply engaging in a series of productive meetings about how they might be addressed.
Following extensive discussions, we are pleased that the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18, which included the need for a streamlined path to an exemption at a clear commitment threshold.
While we work with the government through the exemption process based on the regulations that will be published shortly, we will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers.
Originally posted on June 29:
The Government of Canada has enacted a new law called Bill C-18 (the Online News Act), requiring two companies to pay for simply showing links to news, something that everyone else does for free. The unprecedented decision to put a price on links (a so-called “link tax”) creates uncertainty for our products and exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers. We have been saying for over a year that this is the wrong approach to supporting journalism in Canada and may result in significant changes to our products.
We have now informed the Government that when the law takes effect, we unfortunately will have to remove links to Canadian news from our Search, News and Discover products in Canada, and that C-18 will also make it untenable for us to continue offering our Google News Showcase product in Canada.
We’re disappointed it has come to this. We don’t take this decision or its impacts lightly and believe it’s important to be transparent with Canadian publishers and our users as early as possible.
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).
What happens now?
We plan to participate in the regulatory process and will continue to be transparent with Canadians and publishers as we move forward. We hope that the Government will be able to outline a viable path forward. Otherwise, we remain concerned that Bill C-18 will make it harder for Canadians to find news online, make it harder for journalists to reach their audiences, and reduce valuable free web traffic to Canadian publishers.