Google to shut down Spanish news service in tax row

Thursday 11 December 2014 | 08:54 CET | News
Google has announced that it will be shutting down its Google News service in Spain before the reform of the country’s Intellectual Property Law comes into force on 01 January 2015. The new legislation contains the so-called ‘Google tax’, a provision allowing news media companies in Spain to charge search engines such as Google and Yahoo for displaying copyrighted content. Google has argued vigorously against the ruling, insisting that it makes no money from its search-based service. "It's with real sadness that on 16 December we'll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain," said Richard Gingras, head of Google News in a blog post. He added that the new approach was not sustainable because Spanish companies would be able to charge Google "for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications" even though Google Google News itself makes no money from advertising on the site.

Gingras also said Google News helps publishers attract traffic to their websites and that they can opt to remove their articles from the service if they wish. "The vast majority choose to be included for very good reason. Google News creates real value for these publications by driving people to their websites, which in turn helps generate advertising revenues," he said.

The ‘Google tax’ provision of Spain’s Intellectual Property Law reform is aimed squarely at news aggregators such as Google News, Reddit and Digg, in that it permits the reproduction of “non-significant fragments” without prior authorisation but requires the payment of “fair compensation” for doing so. The law creates an "inalienable right" for publishers to collect the levy via the country’s association of newspaper editors, AEDE, which has applauded the legislation, calling it “the most important step taken by the Spanish government for the protection of the press”. 

The reform also aims to curb internet piracy by putting in place speedier processes to shut down offending sites, including a one-stop-shop for processing complaints related to copyright infringements. One of the amendments increases the maximum fine payable for “very serious” copyright infringement from EUR 300,000 to EUR 600,000.

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