Strict New Copyright Law Forces End Of Google News In Spain
Google has decided to shut down Google News in Spain. This drastic step will occur next week (December 16) and is the result of a recently passed Spanish law that would have compelled Google to pay licensing revenues to Spanish publishers if their content appeared in Google News — even headlines.
Some Spanish publishers, including newspaper group AEDE, had tried to turn Google into a source of mandatory licensing revenue through an ill-conceived copyright and anti-piracy law that would have required fees for even the smallest bits of content in Google News.
The law is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2015. Google’s preemptive move will not affect traditional search results where news content will still appear. In a blog post this evening the company explained its decision:
[S]adly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we’ll shortly have to close Google News in Spain. Let me explain why. This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.
The Spanish law followed in the wake of a similar failed attempt in Germany to extract licensing revenues from Google. In Germany Google had asked news publishers to sign liability waivers in order to have their “snippets” included in Google News. However the Spanish law goes further and makes it effectively impossible for individual publishers to waive their copyright licensing “rights” under the new statute — even if they disagree with the law.
Google’s decision means that not only will there be no more News in Spain but there will be no Spanish news publisher content in any other Google News edition, including other Spanish speaking countries. However some of the larger publishers have subsidiaries in Latin America and South America and Google will maintain this local content in its other News sites.
Spanish officials are likely to decry the move as retaliation by Google. But the company says it makes no money off News and so has no other choice. Google says it has tried to work with Spanish publishers and will continue to do so.
While many news publishers around the world have blamed Google for their revenue and readership declines, Google maintains that it sends them valuable traffic. Indeed, in Germany the withdrawal of Google News rich snippets caused a precipitous decline in traffic to a number of publisher sites causing the German news consortium VG Media to declare that without their reinstatement some of its members were on a path to bankruptcy.
Because of this drastic decision by Google I suspect other European countries will be unlikely to follow the German or Spanish examples and duplicate the aggressiveness of these nouveau copyright laws. Sweden however is considering just such a law, often justified as protecting publisher copyrights but intended in fact as a kind of Google link tax.
It’s worth noting that Spain was also the country that generated the lawsuit culminating in the EU-wide “right to be forgotten.”