Australia’s parliament passed a controversial law requiring Google and Facebook to negotiate licensing agreements with local media companies for their news content, following last-minute changes introduced after the internet giants resisted.

In a joint statement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said: “The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia.”

The legislation initially only applies to Google and Facebook: the Treasury will review it within a year to ensure it is delivering the intended outcomes.

In a statement yesterday (24 February), Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg said it looked forward to agreeing to deals with publishers and enabling Australians to share news links again.

He said there is a “fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Facebook and news publishers”, claiming it generated about 5.1 billion free referrals worth an estimated AUD407 million ($324.9 million) to the news industry in 2020.

The legislation passed after amendments which mean Google and Facebook won’t have to pay for specific news content if they forge commercial deals with media businesses.

Australia’s move was seen as a potential template for other nations due to concerns the web giants are monopolising news content, with Canada the latest country reported to be considering legislating against the companies.