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(Pocket-lint) - In what is set to be a landmark piece of legislation, the Australian Government has passed a new law that requires social networks and search engines to pay for the news content they carry. 

The legislation is known as the News Media Bargaining Code and requires Facebook and Google (and potentially other online entities) to pay a fee - agreed between the site and the new provider - to either link to or use news content in other ways. The law is designed to protect smaller news organisations, but its effectiveness will only really be able to be judged over time. 

There's also an arbitration process if an agreement can't be reached which Google isn't happy with. Google also isn't that keen on paying anybody for just linking to content and it has a point, since linking to other sites is one of the acknowledged freedoms of the web - and there is benefit for the site being linked to, of course. 

Earlier this week Facebook said it would reinstate the ability to share news content on the site having pulled this ability last week.

The move was seen as a victory for Facebook since the Australian Government amended the law, while Google also threatened to pull its search engine from Australia before agreeing on a news distribution deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and other Australian news providers such as Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media.

The law will be reviewed in a year's time. 

Writing by Dan Grabham. Originally published on 25 February 2021.