Japan's news outlets have legal grounds to jointly negotiate contracts on the use of their articles on sites run by IT giants, including Yahoo Japan Corp., the antitrust watchdog said Wednesday.

Japan's Fair Trade Commission said media companies would not be violating the antimonopoly law by asking to see the revenue IT firms generate from operating news sites or by cooperating in seeking a standardized written contract. Distribution fees are based on the level of revenue.

But the commission did say it could not allow media firms to limit competition by jointly deciding distribution fees.

News firms have been deeply dissatisfied by what they consider unfair compensation for their articles used by online news sites, which have strong connections with advertisers and readers.

Cooperation would give them greater negotiating power and could lead to revisions in contract terms with major online companies. It is also thought that if news firms used a prepared, standard contract, they could broker deals from an equal position.

The commission stated its findings in its fiscal 2021 compilation of consultations. Although the consulting entity is anonymous, major Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun told Kyodo News it approached the commission in 2021 over whether joint negotiations would contravene the antimonopoly law's promotion of "fair and free competition."

The commission said requesting information from IT companies, using joint contracts and pursuing distribution agreements were not problematic.

Although news companies do receive payment from IT firms based on articles' page views, among other variables, details of the income that technology businesses get from running the sites are not shared. It is hoped revealing this data will lead to discussions on equitable pay for articles.

Contracts in deals with foreign tech firms are drawn up in English, and problems that emerge are addressed per international law.

Cases of websites without contractual agreements with media companies publishing unauthorized links to articles are also under scrutiny. The commission said it would be possible for news firms to cooperate in pursuing legal agreements with these sites.