Opposition has arisen to the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), which is scheduled for Senate markup this week, on the grounds that it would cost jobs.
A group of 21 media companies and public interest and consumer advocacy groups sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary and Antitrust And Consumer Rights committees urging that the bill be scrapped.
The letter was signed by such entities as Common Cause, Consumer Reports, Authors Alliance, EFF, Techdirt, Wikimedia Foundation and Association of Research Libraries.
The bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1735 and S. 673) would allow local news publishers to negotiate collectively with Big Tech, or covered platforms such as Google and Facebook, for fair use of their content.
But the letter argues that the proposed publisher employee cap of 1,500 would exclude “only the nation's three largest newspapers from participating in negotiations.” This cap would create “unintended consequences such as layoffs or transitions to more part-time or freelance employees, which denies journalists any benefits,” it adds.
The coalition contends that big entities would benefit. The “one publisher, one vote” provision for negotiating entities “underplays the forms of soft power large conglomerates with brand-name news outlets can bring to the negotiations," states the letter. "In fact, the bill encourages — and may help fund — more consolidation among both newspapers and broadcasters.”
In addition, the bill’s basic mechanism “expands the rights of content owners beyond the traditional bounds of copyright law in ways that would prove detrimental to the public interest," it continues. “Requiring payment for using facts flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent, based on the First Amendment, that no one may own facts.”
This group also argues that he JCPA would permit a digital journalism provider to sue a covered platform for “limiting the reach of content the platform owner finds offensive or contrary to its terms of service or community standards.”
This is “a direct assault on a bedrock principle of content moderation on the internet, and will increase the amount of networked disinformation, hate speech, and harassment found there,” and would violate the First Amendment, it argues.
In effect, the law would also create an antitrust exemption by allowing publishers to negotiate collective, the group contends.
“Historically, antitrust exemptions have not accomplished beneficial goals, and instead have harmed competition and consumers, entrenched existing power structures and increased codependence between industry incumbents,” the letter states. “The JCPA will cement and stimulate consolidation in the industry and create new barriers to entry for new and innovative models of truly independent, local journalism.”
Danielle Coffey, executive vice president and general counsel, News/Media Alliance, argued last week that there will be no job loss if the JCPA is passed. Instead, “the opposite will happen, as it did in Australia where newsrooms in some cases doubled because of the infusion of cash," he said. "Moreover, the JCPA... requires payments [to] be tied to how many journalists you have. The more journalists you hire, the more compensation you will receive."