News/Media Alliance Rebuts Arguments That Canada’s Online News Act Violates Treaty Obligations

Following Canada’s adoption of Bill C-18, the Online News Act in June, the News/Media Alliance submitted a briefing to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in late June rebutting arguments that the law violates Canada’s international treaty obligations. The Online News Act closely resembles Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, adopted in 2021, with both giving news publishers the right to negotiate – collectively if desired – with the dominant online platforms for fair compensation for the use of their content. Throughout the legislative process, some big tech interest groups made arguments that the bill would violate Canada’s non-discrimination commitments under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which prohibit the signatories from discriminating against businesses or investors from the other treaty partners.

The briefing discusses why these provisions are not applicable to the Online News Act in the first place and how, even if they were applicable, the bill would not be in violation of the relevant prohibitions. It also emphasizes the vital public welfare rationale behind the Act – and others, including the News Media Bargaining Code and the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in the United States – and how this aligns with the Biden Administration’s all-of-government competition initiative. The briefing calls for the USTR to restrain from expressing reservations on the Act, noting that doing so would undermine similar efforts in the United States. Read the full briefing here.

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