Microsoft backs Australia's proposed media laws, eyes expansion

People walk past a Microsoft store in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 25, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it fully supported proposed new laws in Australia that would force internet giants Google and Facebook Inc to pay domestic media outlets for their content.

"While Microsoft is not subject to the legislation currently pending, we'd be willing to live by these rules if the government designates us," the software firm said in a statement.

"The code reasonably attempts to address the bargaining power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses."

Both Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook have called the laws unworkable and said last month they would withdraw some key services from Australia if the regulations went ahead.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday Microsoft was ready to step in and expand its search product Bing in Australia if Google pulls its search engine, after he spoke with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella last week.

Google's search engine has 94% of the country's search market, according to industry data.

Microsoft in its statement said it will offer small firms a chance to transfer advertising business to Bing with no costs and that it would invest further in the product to ensure it is competitive.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru and Byron Kaye in Sydney; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Sam Holmes)

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