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Richard C. Owens: Google should start playing nice with the news media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Newspaper advertising revenues are in calamitous decline. To many, Google (and other tech companies, like Facebook), whose revenues have soared, have caused the decline. Should Google pay newspapers a higher share of advertising revenues, to properly compensate them for their content?

Google is a rich target, and a deserving one. The tech giant has profited enormously from uncompensated or inadequately compensated uses of artists’ works on YouTube and its other platforms, like Google Books. It has unrelentingly opposed any attempt to improve copyright laws to meet the needs of the digital economy, hiding behind putatively independent non-governmental organizations and academics that it funds or retains. No example of this is more egregious than the activist and lobbying onslaught unleashed against the European Union’s 2019 Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (Directive), which was intended to better protect artists and other content providers, including news services.

Newspaper articles are protected by copyright, but copyright is finicky. It does not apply to information at all. It does apply to original, creative expression, but there isn’t much of that in most news reports, which unambiguously report facts. And to violate copyright, a “material” amount of a story must be copied. Copyright is also eroding, especially online, as evidenced by the fact that Google has won cases that allow it to copy and post whole books and entire images for free.

To the rescue rode the Directive, which created a quasi-copyright, a so-called “neighbouring right,” for the news media. Germany, France and Spain have laws embodying a similar right. These laws essentially say that to reproduce or communicate news extracts requires authorization. But according to the Directive, hyperlinks and very short extracts are exempt. Google’s services generally copy headlines and little more, and provide a link to the original source. So even under the Directive, there may be no right to compensation.

In Germany, Google stopped posting brief excerpts of the articles it linked to, which drove down traffic to German publishers’ sites. Publishers capitulated, licensing content back to Google to maintain their traffic. A similar law in Spain resulted in Google withdrawing its news service from the country entirely (which, interestingly, does not seem to have had a negative impact on traffic to the websites of Spanish newspapers). In France, Google also threatened to respond by posting less content, so as not to infringe the new right.

French competition law authorities then claimed that Google was abusing its dominant position in the market by threatening not to post any excerpts over which news outlets had rights. It’s an interesting argument, but can Google legitimately be forced to carry on its business in a particular way? Suppose it made the same decision for other reasons than it apparently did in this case, such as to save money. Would this be reason for governments to intervene? And what evidence is there of actual harm to the newspapers from Google’s decision? Sometimes competition regulation seems more about governments opportunistically bullying the market to extract massive fines than about principled intervention. That said, Google’s a big bully, too, so have at it. Meanwhile, Australia’s competition authority is preparing a code that will require Google to pay more to news media, based on a similar competition law theory.

With all these legal uncertainties, Google is beginning to look less like a wrongdoer caught in a particular act than a swaying pinata full of money that no one can hit.

Canada does not have a neighbouring right for news reporting like Europe does. Canadian copyright law would not yield a remedy. Competition authorities in Canada haven’t intervened. A remedial tax has been proposed, but a tax puts government in the position of collecting and disbursing funds. Government should not fund news media, since the main job of the media is to hold government to account. It won’t do that nearly as effectively if it is funded by government — just look at the CBC. The government could simply pass a law requiring Google to pay newspapers, but that wouldn’t seem principled and would be very hard to implement.

When the law doesn’t respond, one can always make a plea to equity. Is there something like unjust enrichment going on? It’s not an easy question. Expediency is clear: newspapers desperately need money and Google’s got money. But how do we prove that money had been diverted from newspapers? Google drives viewers to news websites and supplies ads that allow newspapers to monetize those page views.

Maybe the answer isn’t a legal one at all. Sometimes co-operation without compulsion makes sense. The internet is far better off with authoritative, factual sources of reference, such as are provided by professional, fact-checking newspapers. Google’s news service in particular needs them. It would be in Google’s interests to make productive partnerships with news publishers, irrespective of a legal obligation to do so. Google’s scorched earth policies with respect to creators and content providers will not serve it well in the long run. But a corollary is that journalism must redouble its efforts to attain high levels of insight, professionalism and impartiality if it is to continue to justify its quasi-institutional role and entitlement to support. Without resources, that is becoming a very difficult task.

National Post

Richard C. Owens is a senior Munk fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of law and a lawyer.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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China media, Hong Kong government bristle at Trump's pledge of curbs, sanctions – Cape Breton Post

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By James Pomfret and Stella Qiu

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s state media and the government of Hong Kong lashed out on Sunday at U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to end Hong Kong’s special status if Beijing imposes new national security laws on the city, which is bracing for fresh protests.

Trump on Friday pledged to “take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory”, and to impose sanctions on unspecified individuals over Beijing’s new laws on the Asian financial centre.

But China’s state media pushed back, saying this would hurt the United States more than China.

“The baton of sanctions that the United States is brandishing will not scare Hong Kong and will not bring China down,” China’s Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, wrote in a commentary. It used the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give the paper’s view on foreign policy issues.

The Global Times wrote, “China has already prepared for the worst. No matter how far the U.S. goes, China will keep its company.”

A Hong Kong government spokesman expressed regret the United States continued to “smear and demonise the legitimate rights and duty of our sovereign” to safeguard national security.

In a sign of diplomatic manoeuvring, the U.S. government said it would put one of its prime Hong Kong properties up for sale – a luxury residential complex worth up to HK$5 billion ($650 million).

A spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong said this was part of a global programme that “reinforces the U.S. government’s presence in Hong Kong” through reinvestment in other areas.

China and Hong Kong officials have justified the laws that will be directly imposed by China to restore order to a city that has been wracked by sometimes violent anti-China, anti-government protests over the past year. They said the laws will only apply to a small number of “troublemakers.”

Protesters, however, have said they are railing against China’s deep encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms despite Beijing’s promise to grant the city a high degree of autonomy under a so-called “one-country, two systems” formula since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

More protests are planned in the coming weeks.

Countries including the United States, Canada and Britain have expressed deep concerns about the law, with Britain saying it may grant expanded visa rights to large numbers of Hong Kongers.

Demosisto, an advocacy group led by prominent young Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, said the security law will be “the death of freedom in Hong Kong”.

A senior Hong Kong official, Erick Tsang, said he couldn’t care less if he were sanctioned by the Washington. “I wouldn’t even go to Canada, just in case they try to catch me” there, Tsang told local radio.

Details of the laws remain unclear, even to Hong Kong officials, but are expected to be enacted by China’s parliament this summer. The laws will outlaw secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong, and will be imposed without any local legislative scrutiny.

(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom and Stella Qiu in Beijing; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Christopher Cushing and William Mallard)

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China media bristles at U.S. moves on Hong Kong over national security push

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s state media lashed out on Sunday at possible retaliatory moves by the United States to impose sanctions and end Hong Kong’s special status if Beijing imposes new national security laws, as the city braces for fresh protests.

The state-backed China Daily said U.S. President Donald Trump’s pledge to “take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory”, and to impose sanctions on unspecified individuals, would hurt the United States, and unite Hong Kong with mainland China.

“China has already prepared for the worst. No matter how far the U.S. goes, China will keep its company. If Trump’s plan continues, Washington will soon run counter to the interests of most Hong Kong people,” the state-run Global Times tabloid wrote.

“The extreme tactics of a superpower like the U.S. are nothing less than chronic suicide.”

A Hong Kong government spokesman expressed regret the United States continued to “smear and demonise the legitimate rights and duty of our sovereign” to safeguard national security.

In a sign of diplomatic manoeuvring, the U.S. government said it would put one of its prime Hong Kong properties up for sale – a luxury residential complex worth up to HK$5 billion ($645.09 million).

A spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong told Reuters this was part of the U.S. government’s global reinvestment programme that “reinforces the U.S. government’s presence in Hong Kong” through reinvestment in other areas.

China and Hong Kong officials have justified the laws that will be directly imposed by China to restore order to a city that has been wracked by sometimes violent anti-China, anti-government protests over the past year.

Protesters, however, have said they are railing against China’s deep encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms despite Beijing’s promise to grant the city a high degree of autonomy under a so-called “one-country, two systems” formula since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

They have said more protests are planned in the coming weeks.

Countries including the United States, Canada and Britain have expressed deep concerns about the law, with Britain saying it may grant expanded visa rights to large numbers of Hong Kongers.

Demosisto, the advocacy group led by prominent young Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, said the security law will be “the death of freedom in Hong Kong”.

Details of the laws remain unclear, even to Hong Kong officials, but are expected to be enacted by China’s parliament this summer. The laws will outlaw secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong, and will be imposed without any local legislative scrutiny.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong insist the legislation will target only a small number of “troublemakers” who threaten China’s national security.

(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom and Stella Qiu in Beijing; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Edited By Harry Miller)

 

Source: cape-breton-post

Edited by Harry Miller

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Tainted water series from Global News, media consortium wins Canadian Association of Journalists award – Globalnews.ca

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A nationwide investigation that exposed the prevalence of lead contamination in drinking water has been honoured by the Canadian Association of Journalists.

Tainted Water received the group’s award for data journalism during a ceremony hosted via Zoom on Saturday.


READ MORE:
Inside the investigation that exposed lead-laced drinking water in Canada

The series was produced by the Institute for Investigative Journalism (IIJ) at Concordia University, along with Global News and outlets such as Le Devoir, the Toronto Star, the Regina Leader-Post and the National Observer.

“We are incredibly honoured to be recognized alongside our partners and the IIJ with such a prestigious award,” said Chris Bassett, Global News’ national director for content and editorial standards.

“This series had an immediate impact across the country and was a collaborative effort supported by many outstanding journalists across the country to expose an issue impacting the health and safety of thousands of Canadians.”

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In total, more than 120 reporters were involved in the project, which was published and broadcast during the fall. More than 220 hours of interviews were recorded by members of the consortium and the journalists filed over 700 access-to-information requests.

READ MORE: Investigation into lead in Canada’s drinking water spurs calls for action across country

The investigation found that, out of 12,000 tests conducted by 11 cities, 33 per cent exceeded safe lead levels as defined by Health Canada.

The findings sparked immediate action from leaders. In Quebec, the government announced it would adopt stronger standards for acceptable lead content, in line with Health Canada guidelines. The mayor of Montreal vowed to test the water at more than 100,000 homes and accelerate a program for replacing lead pipes.

Halifax extended an offer to replace lead pipes on private property for free. And in Alberta, at least 50 school divisions contacted the provincial health authority asking for support or information regarding lead testing in the weeks following the investigation.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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