Our Federal Government is finally going to try and hold Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook accountable for the hundreds of millions of dollars they make on the intellectual property of Canadian journalists.
It’s not going to be easy, and this should have been done a decade ago in my opinion. But now, the giant social media platform is very much embedded in all aspects of Canadian lives. Facebook argues it raises the profile of journalists and news outlets, and thus we should all be grateful for what they perceive to be the free promotion of Canadian news agencies. Yet the same Canadian newspapers, television networks and radio stations combined generate a mere fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars that Facebook earns in online ad revenue every year.
Imagine, if you will, that a novelist wrote a popular book. Imagine that Facebook published the entire book online and sold advertising attached to it without providing any compensation to the author. How does the author sell any books when they can read his words online for free? How does the author sell advertising on his own website when his traffic is just a fraction of an online giant like Facebook? It would be difficult for that author, despite having the profile of a popular novelist, to earn a living. Facebook may have helped raise the novelist’s profile, but they are the only ones making a substantial income from the novelist’s intellectual property.
If you or I were to monetize someone’s intellectual works, such as writings, music, art etc., we would be open to being sued for compensation. After all, we accepted money for work that belonged to someone else. We would be accused of theft of intellectual property. Yet that is exactly what Facebook is doing every day.
Facebook claims to be ensuring the public has access to information and trustworthy news sources. Yet there are also thousands of other sites shared through their platform that are not only producing misinformation, but also producing revenue for Facebook. In my opinion, Facebook is one of the driving forces behind a world that up until five or six years ago had never heard the term “Fake News.” Now, anyone who dislikes what they read paints it with the same insulting tag – especially reports pertaining to anything political.
Last month, while arguing their position in Australia, Facebook shut down access to their platform in that country for five days. It was their way of showing the Australian government just how much all aspects of the country had come to depend on Facebook’s platform. I, for one, hope they do the same in Canada. Because if they do, it might be interesting to see if our federal government will actually stand up for the people they were elected to serve and hold their ground by protecting the intellectual property rights of thousands of Canadian journalists and the news organizations they work for.
Facebook and all other social media platforms need to recognize that without trusted news sources, they would only attract a fraction of the traffic they currently advertise to. If they pay their fair share to the people who truly create that traffic, everybody should win.
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