Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientists that invented the World Wide Web, has opposed plans to force tech companies to pay for news.
In Australia, the government is pursuing laws that would force tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay media companies for the links they feature.
They would have to compensate Australian news outlets, or face steep fines.
Naturally, this has prompted a backlash from the American tech firms. Facebook has said that Aussies will be blocked from sharing articles on the News Feed while Google News has just been hiding results.
For his part, Berners-Lee says the move from Canberra undermines a ‘fundamental principle’ of the web he built back in 1989.
‘The ability to link freely — meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees — is fundamental to how the web operates, how it has flourished till present, and how it will continue to grow in decades to come,’ he wrote in a January 18 submission to an Australian Senate inquiry.
While Berners-Lee agrees that content producers should be ‘properly rewarded’ for their work, he says putting constraints on hyperlinks is not the way to do it.
‘If this precedent were followed elsewhere it could make the web unworkable around the world,’ he wrote.
‘I therefore respectfully urge the committee to remove this mechanism from the code.’
The rest of the world is watching the proceedings with interest as the news media companies continue to see the impact of digital platforms like Facebook and Google on their business model.
Australia says it plans to introduce the new rules this year, with the Senate committee starting to hold public hearings from Friday.