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Government media release: ACCC mandatory code of conduct to govern the relationship between digital platforms and media companies (20 April 2020)

The Federal Treasurer and the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts have jointly announced that a mandatory code of conduct, containing enforcement and penalty provisions, will be developed by the ACCC that will address commercial arrangements between digital platforms (eg. sites such as Facebook, Google, etc) and news media businesses, including in relation to sharing of data, how news content is monetised and revenue shared.  A draft version is scheduled for public comment by the end of July 2020. 

This follows the government’s indication in December 2019 that it would adopt the key recommendations of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry dated 26 July 2019.  While this is primarily an issue of competition law and imbalance of bargaining power, of interest will be whether or how the code interacts with the existing provisions of the Copyright Act that deal with remedies (ie. damages) for unauthorised reproduction of works. 

Separately, one finding of the Digital Platforms report (see page 206 in Chapter 5) was that “challenges in enforcing copyright against digital platforms create detriments for rights holders because they lower the incentives for digital platforms to respond promptly to take-down requests and erode the value of their copyrighted content”. The final report also recommended a mandatory take-down code to assist copyright enforcement on digital platforms, although this appears separate from the code of conduct presently announced.

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