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Google Goes Nuclear, Shuts Down Google News in Spain

257220818_0f66f13c93_m[1]Spanish publishers won another round this week in the eternal fight to prevent their content from being discovered and shared online.

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 (
  • 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.

380061405_0f0e768c1a[1]As I see it, yes this law is terrible but any attempt to enforce it could be tripped up by EU law.

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.

images by Marxchivistaditza121

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Ingo Lembcke December 12, 2014 um 5:15 am

In Germany (where I live) we have a nearly similar law, the Leistungsschutzrecht, and
it was brought to the lawmakers by heavy lobbying from publishers, mainly Axel Springer AG (the publisher of Die Welt, Bild and other daily or weekly newspapers).

Most publishers have granted Google an exception, so Google can link, effectively rendering the law unsuccessful – only Axel Springer tried not to, measuring the influence Google of not linking to their sites. What they will do in the future or wether they caved, I am not sure, but Axel Springer lost money. Interestingly Axel Springer is one of the only news-paper-publishers who are making money off the internet, before the law they wanted came into place.
And other countries, see Spain above, did not wait to see, wether the strategy was
good and sound and made the publishers money or whatever. Instead they even wrote a tighter law, effectively forcing Google to close down the News-Linking-Service, which brought the traffic to the publishers, so they will lose money in the near future, this was also hinted at in Germany before the law was written, but in Germany it is so broadly written, the courts will have to interpret it. Also a sign of a bad law, laws should be clear (even to the layperson).
As far as I know, Google did not show ads on the service, offering it free to users,
so they do (did) not even make any money off it, even though that was supposed to be the reason in both Germany and Spain for drawing the law, so the publishers would get revenue from the supposed money Google makes by linking to them. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And I am glad, then all Publishers die because they lobbyed for a law that will
render them insolvent. Even though I jobbed once for Axel Springer and my father worked most of his working live for them.

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