Google has decided to block Spanish news publishers in Spain effective Dec. 16. Reportedly it is in response to what many are calling the “Google Tax”, a law that takes effect Jan. 1 requiring aggregators to compensate news publishers for linking content. The law was passed by Parliament back in October of this year. The company stated that it will block news reports from Latin publishers from the Google News International editions, totaling more than 70 publishers.
Latin Americans that are accustomed to getting their news via the news channel will now be unable to get the news via the site in Mexico and other countries. In addition, English written reports from the publishers like the El Pais Newspaper will be blocked.
The AEDE association of Spain, consisting of big news publishers, lobbied for the “Google Tax.” They refused to comment on the company’s recent decision to block Spanish news from their site. Reportedly this is the first shutdown experienced by Google News since its inception in 2006.
Certain details were not specified in the law such as how much the company would have to pay publishers. According to a Google spokesman, the law in Spain was more stringent than similar laws passed in other countries. The law requires that payment be made to publishers just for showing even the smallest clips of their content whether the actual publisher wanted to charge or not. The way the news site is set up, it does not show ads or bring in revenue.
Many newspaper publishers have been miffed with the tech titan. They argue that the company circumvents copyrights by establishing a digital kiosk of headlines pulled in from other news sites. The company has been referred to as a “freeloader” by some but attempts have been made to have the company change its policies through the court system.
According to Google, all copyright laws are adhered to while driving traffic to websites spotlighted in their Google News service. The tech giant also lets publishers block their own content from being displayed but few choose that option due to the importance of the traffic brought to sell ads.
Madrid-based attorney, Alejandro Tourino, said that Spanish news publishers have possibly taken themselves out of the market with the tactic. Tourino worked for The Associated Press on legal cases and also maintains a specialty in media issues.
A similar law was passed in Germany; however the law was revised last year. The revision allowed for Google News to make payments to publishers but did not force them to. In turn, the company required for all news publishers to provide written consent for the content which most did. An owner of a network of German websites later on said that he believes the initial measure was a shot in the foot resulting in plummeting online traffic.
French news organizations reached an agreement with Google last year to increase their online visibility. They were seeking more advertising revenue and funding for digital publishing innovations. It was a settlement reached over whether the company would pay for news content in its search results or not. Europe joined the fray passing a law stating that citizens had the right to have outdated or embarrassing information about them removed from Google’s search engine. That case began in Spain.
Due to how the law in Spain was written, Google moved forward with the decision to block Spanish news publishers from the site instead of issuing royalty payments whether the publisher requested it or not. Under the new law, publishers have the inalienable right to compensation and are not able to renounce it.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Yahoo – Flickr License