For example, a cafe owner might have made their way to the top spot in Search results for a particular query over time, thanks to popularity, search interest and other signals. But if the draft code became law—giving some publishers an advanced look at algorithm changes—they could potentially take advantage of this and make their web content appear more prominently in search results.
Likewise, if you ran an independent travel website that provides advice to people on how to plan local holidays, you might lose out to a newspaper travel section because they’ve had a sneak peek at changes to how Search works.
That’s an unfair advantage for news businesses. Businesses of all kinds would face an additional hurdle at a time when it’s more important than ever to connect with their customers.
A bad precedent
The draft code would also create a mandatory negotiation and arbitration model that only takes into account the costs and value created by one party—news businesses. The code’s provisions mean costs are uncapped and unquantifiable, and there is no detail on what formula is used to calculate payment.
Regulation framed in this way would set a bad precedent. Most businesses support sensible regulation—but not heavy-handed rules that favour one group of companies over all others.
Australian entrepreneurs like Mike Cannon-Brooks, Matt Barrie and Daniel Petrie have made the point that a market intervention like this would deter international companies from operating in Australia, risking jobs and investment just as we need to be focusing on the recovery from COVID-19.
And it’s not just business leaders who’ve spoken out. Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard from a cross-section of Australia’s business community, from local retailers and restaurants to YouTube creators, and we’re deeply grateful for their support.
The way forward
The issues with the draft code are serious, but we believe they can be worked through in a way that protects full and fair access to Search and YouTube for every Australian business.
We’ve made it clear that we want to contribute to a strong future for Australian news, and we’re engaging constructively with the Government and the ACCC to try to find a resolution — making proposals for changes that would support a workable code.
Throughout 2020, we’ve worked with business owners across Australia to help them get through the challenges of the fires and the pandemic, whether by providing digital tools, direct assistance, skills training or advice, and we hope to continue providing that support long into the future.
We know how tough this year has been, and we’re going to keep doing everything we can to make sure that the final version of the code supports Australia’s amazing businesses.