Four ways India can start making Big Tech pay for news, CFO News, ETCFO

Global pressure on making Google and Facebook pay a fair share to news publishers is ratcheting up. The Australian prime minister spoke to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the matter during a recent call. Some reports suggest an international coalition of Australia, India, UK and France may be an option for taking on Big Tech. However, India is the only country where no official effort has been made so far to tackle this issue. ET’s Surabhi Agarwal spoke to several experts to get a sense of how India can start preparing a policy on making Google, Facebook pay for news content.

Government can look at statutory licensing provision under Section 31D of the Copyright Act. Under this provision, the authority has the power to decide what should be the licensing fee for content in mediums. Experts feel that there is a “precedent” available in this provision, allowing the government to regulate.

Most experts feel the Competition Commission of India is the most suitable regulator. CCI should study the “impact on the market” by analysing the relationship between platforms and news publishers and should take corrective action if fi ndings are found to be adverse. CCI can suo motu order an investigation, too. It has fi ned companies such as Google for abuse of market dominance and is currently investigating the company for alleged abuse of its dominant power for favouring its own app Google Pay over competitors.

Some experts recommend GoI should immediately set the ball rolling by calling first for a 30-45 day consultation through seeking inputs from all stakeholders – platforms, large and small publishers, and end users. This can be done either by MeitY or I&B. Following this, the process of regulation can start.

Some experts are in favour of India setting up a “digital agency”, which will be tasked with dealing with this and other Big Tech issues. It can have wide powers like Trai has in telecom. The other option is an empowered committee on data or a high-level panel consisting of top offi cials from ministries of IT, I&B and others which can “pool in their expertise” and take quick calls on these complex matters.

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