Spain’s Google Tax Passes Lower House, Imperils News and Aggregation Sites

7530235974_9aab70e173_c[1]Spain's long debated online tax on Google News and other aggregation sites passed the Congress of Deputies, Spain's lower chamber of Parliament, last week and it is as bad as Google (and anyone who depends on Google) could have feared.Not only does the new law require Google News as well as aggregators like Flipboard (and even Facebook for that matter) to pay for the use of an excerpt, it also explicitly prevents publishers from granting permission for the excerpts to be used for free.

Passed as part of a set of reforms and changes to Spanish copyright law, canon AEDE (as the Google tax is known) grants publishers an inalienable and non-revokable right to a payment for any use of their content.

Julio Alonso shared the news earlier today. Writing over on Medium, he says:

Once you read the actual proposal, it becomes quite clear that Spanish newspaper editors have learned from the German experience. There the government passed a similar law that forced Google to pay newspaper editors if they were included in Google News. When approved, Google excluded all newspaper editors from Google News and asked anyone wanting to be listed to reapply explicitly declaring that they renounced to be compensated. All newspaper did reapply not wanting to miss out on the traffic it generates. Google won.

The Spanish law proposal declares that editors cannot refuse the use of “non-significant fragments of their articles” by third parties. However, it creates a levy on such use to compensate editors and declares it an inalienable right (derecho irrenunciable).

The introduction of the inalienable right was done to avoid what happened in Germany. If you are a digital editor that publishes with a copyleft license, like myself, and you minimally understand how the internet actually works, you cannot decide to not charge Google News. It is compulsory. More than a right it is an obligation. Therefore, Google cannot exclude sites requiring payment from Google News. It would still need to pay for those it includes, even if they do not want to be compensated.

The bill has only passed the lower house at this time, but local commentators expect that it will also pass the upper house in short order and become law.

And that is when the excrement will impact the rotary impeller unit.

While Google has in the past responded to similar laws by changing their policies, it is widely believed that Google will simply pull out of Spain entirely, followed shortly thereafter by other search engines, Pocket, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Flipboard, and virtually every other startup with a service which could be used to share an excerpt.

To make matters even worse, Spain's own news aggregation site, Menéame, is also talking about moving abroad. This Reddit-like site reports that they considering moving the company out of Europe entirely in order to escape this law because they're not sure whether simply moving to another part of the EU will be enough.

And the law could even affect indie bloggers like me; under Spain's new law I might  have to pay for the privilege of quoting the excerpt above. While European law does have a legal concept called "right to quote", it's not clear how that will be affected by the new law. I also cannot find specifics on the Spanish version of that law, so I am at a loss to understand financial and legal implications.

At this point no one understands the full ramifications of the new law, in part because few have seen the final language. But one thing we can guess is that if this law passes as currently described it won't just hurt tech companies; the law will also make it harder for Spanish readers to find relevant news stories and stay informed.

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When I last covered the proposed Spanish law in May of this year, I described it as a textbook example of insanity, in that it is a new attempt at an idea which has repeatedly failed in the past.

Time and again, whenever someone tries to force Google to pay for the free advertising it gives to news sites the search engine finds a way to avoid paying. In Germany last year Google changed its policies to require explicit permission for free use of excerpts and then delisted anyone who didn't agree. Google is subsequently being sued in Germany for copyright infringement, antitrust, and other misdeeds.

In Belgium in 2011, the newspaper rights management company Copiepresse won a 5-year-old lawsuit in which Google was accused of pirating content by sharing links. Google subsequently complied with the court order to remove the offending links, leading to cries of vicious retaliation. After a brief negotiations Google paid a token fee and got to continue to use the links and excerpts. Google also paid 60 million euros to head off a law in France similar to the one now being considered in Spain.

And now Spain is going to try an idea which has only seen marginal success elsewhere. Would anyone lay odds on how badly it will not succeed in Spain?

images by Shardayyy, David Hurt

About Nate Hoffelder (11588 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

13 Comments on Spain’s Google Tax Passes Lower House, Imperils News and Aggregation Sites

  1. The only way to deal with these kinds of efforts is to give them exactly what they’re asking for: total blackout. No finesse, no loophole hunting, just walk away. No quotes, no mentions, no coverage…

    Spain is (more or less) a democracy so let the demos decide how they like what their government is giving them.

  2. If Google already has paid 60 million euros in France to avoid this same problem, my guess is Spain is saying, pay us too.

    Not being able to share excerpts and links is not being able to communicate.

    The stink, I believe, is more about control than greed this time.

    • No, Spain’s economy is worse than you can possibly imagine. They’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for any and every peseta they can get (yes, I know they use the Euro).

      Now, their “right to be forgotten” legislation is about control, yes, but I’m conflicted about that one philosophically.

      • I read in John Mauldin’s newsletter, and a few other financial sites (Minyanville, etc) there’s real fear in Europe, and of course Spain, of something similar to Greece. Bank deposits over x amt frozen, converted into “paper” stock in the depository bank, etc. Unemployment, I believe, is also extremely high in Spain. Wouldn’t want to buy any real estate there right now, ala a lot of Brits a few years back. Still hope to one day see my family’s namesake town, Lerma. I don’t know anything about us three generations back when my grandparents arrived across the border. Sure glad they did 🙂

        • I would love to go to Spain. I live in Kansas City, Missouri, where Sevilla is a part of every native’s daily life, in the form of a shopping district built to look like old Sevilla (~1920, I believe). There’s a 1/4-scale replica of La Giralda, even. (Just wrote a book set in Spain, and in the middle of another one.)

          But yes, Spain’s on the short “Greece List” with Italy. Merkel’s tired of propping everybody up. She could pull the plug anytime. And Spanish unemployment’s devastatingly high amongst the 18-35s, the highest of any other demographic.

          Lerma is straight north of Madrid, right?

          • Yes, only seen it on a map though, plus pictures of this giant stone town plaza 🙂

            And yes, Italy too, very sad. People like to point fingers, but merging disparate currencies that had been in place for a long time, reflecting not just the cost of living in each country, but the rate of, or lack of, inflation, depending, takes a lot of time.

            Euro’s made it lot longer than people thought.

            So what’s your book set in Spain about?

          • I’m quite sure there are thriving black market economies in all the struggling countries. There always is, and I have zero problem with that. People will always find their way around a government-instigated problem.

            Here’s the book. 😉 Paso Doble

  3. @Moriah, not sure if this will show under our thread or start a new one (don’t see a reply button) – but anyway, looks very interesting, “just friends” huh? Looks like a very hot book 🙂 All the best wishes, Moriah!

  4. Unless there is a minimum fee amount in the legislation, Google will do what it’s done elsewhere, then come to an agreement to use the excerpts for 1 euro per year per publisher.

  5. Jeffrey F. Smith // 29 July, 2014 at 8:44 pm // Reply

    Strange question here, but couldn’t newspapers and their websites technically be considered aggregators as well? After all unless everything in or on them is written by somebody they have hired and paid they will have something in them from an outside source.

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