Google announced yesterday that they are shutting down their Google News search engine in Spain. The search engine giant is anticipating changes to Spanish copyright law which will make it impossible to link to a news story without paying a license fee.
The new laws, which were passed at the end of October and will take effect next month, grants publishers the inalienable right to be paid for the use of a snippet and even a link. For obvious reason, it is called hoe Google tax, even though it affects everyone from Google to Twitter to online discussion forums.
And for equally obvious reasons it has failed in its stated goal.
While we’re on the topic, the tasa Google (as it is known in Spanish) is just one part of a slate of horribly bad changes to Spanish copyright law. The Google tax is getting the most press, but other bad ideas include a requirement to collect license fees on CC-licensed academic content.
Google only announced their decision last night but it’s already been covered extensively. If you are short on time, read the Baekdal post; it’s a good one.
- Google announces end of News in Spain (The IPKat)
- Google News Out of Spain: None Shall Pass (by
- Google News Shuttered in Spain Thanks to “Ancillary Copyright” Law (EFF)
- Google News to Shut Down in Spain (NYTimes.com)
- Google Pulls Out The Nuclear Option: Shuts Down Google News In Spain Over Ridiculous Copyright Law (Techdirt)
So far, the coverage is focused on what a terrible idea this is, and how it has obviously failed. I haven’t found any discussion yet on what could happen when one of the collection societies which is going to handle the license fees first tries to go after a site for nonpayment.
As the EFF pointed out last month, EU courts have ruled that sharing a link to pirated content is not copyright infringement. To be more exact, a site which linked to pirated content was sued for infringement over the links. EU courts ruled that the link, even when it lead to pirated content, was not itself infringing.
In short, EU law says you can link to a pirated copy of a news story without penalty, but Spanish law says you cannot link to the original without paying a fee.
Someone’s going to have to square that circle before this story goes further.
This is not the first time news publishers have played chicken with Google, though to be honest I’m not sure that news publishers are the main force behind the tasa Google. Given that there is also a new requirement to collect fees on CC-licensed content, I suspect that the collection societies are the masterminds. That would explain why there is no fallback position, why the tasa Google is an inalienable right.
In past attempts to collect fees from Google, including the one which just failed in Germany a couple months ago, news publishers left themselves a way out should their
extortion efforts fail. Even the greediest of the news publishers knows that Google sends them free traffic. So even if they want Google to pay for the privilege, they won’t set up a ploy which could result in losing access to that stream of free traffic.
But thanks to the new inalienable right, there’s no way for news publishers to back down and let Google use their links and snippets.
And that’s why I wonder who is really behind the new laws. To put it simply, I find stupidity on the scale required for news publishers to come up with the tasa Google to be less plausible than nefarious intent on the part of an unknown party.