Google News says ‘adiós’ to Spain in row over publishing fees
Google News shut has its Spanish operations and similar sites are contemplating their future as the country prepares to usher in a law requiring aggregators to pay publishers for linking to their content.
On Tuesday morning, the news stories that normally fill the Google News page were replaced by the following message: “We’re incredibly sad to announce that, due to recent changes in Spanish law, we have removed Spanish publishers from Google News and closed Google News in Spain.”
The law, set to come into force in January, requires services which post links and excepts of news articles to pay a fee to the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies (AEDE). Publishers cannot opt out or offer their content for free.
“As Google News makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach was not sustainable,” the company wrote on its Spanish site. It took aim at the law’s insinuation of a parasitic relationship between media and aggregators: “Google News creates real value for these publications by driving people to their website, which in turn helps generate advertising revenues.”
The shutdown affects only Google News in Spain – news stories from Spain can still be accessed through the company’s main search engine.
Last week, the culture ministry described Google’s shutdown as a “business decision”. The new law “doesn’t hinder freedom of information, but respects and protects the intellectual property rights of the authors”, it said.
Many of the law’s details remain unknown. It does not establish how much aggregators must pay for content, as this will be decided in a separate process involving the government and affected parties in the coming months.
The lack of information has left other aggregator sites in Spain questioning what their next steps should be, said Ricardo Galli, co-founder of Menéame, a Spanish news aggregator. “We’re completely lost and in a state of judicial insecurity,” he told Playground magazine.
The ministry of culture has repeatedly said social networks and their users would be exempt from paying the fee. But Galli said he did not know if that meant sites like his would be spared, as its aggregation is driven by users.
“There’s been a lot of alarm about us disappearing and we’ve received a lot of help and proposals to set up Menéame in other countries,” Galli said. “There’s a risk, but the probability of us disappearing is minimal.”
Last week, the big media publishers in Spain who lobbied the rightwing People’s party government to push forward with the law held firm to the idea that content providers must be fairly compensated for material used by others.
AEDE said the closure of Google News “without a doubt will have a negative impact on citizens and Spanish companies”, and called for authorities to get involved. “AEDE requires the intervention of the Spanish and EU authorities and the competition authorities to protect the rights of citizens and businesses,” it said.
The group appealed for dialogue: “We’ve also maintained, and continue to do so, an interest in negotiating with Google to reach an agreement that would benefit both parties.”