Last updateMon, 08 Jun 2015 12pm

Google blocks Spanish news in response to laws targeted at ‘aggregators’

Happy New Year 2015 is not starting out as such a Feliz Año Nuevo for many Spanish speakers around the world.  Two weeks ago Google announced the shutdown of news reporting in Spain due to a new law that went into into effect January 1 in the Iberian nation.  Google now omits news reports originating from Spanish publishers from appearing in more than 70 Google News international editions due to the new law requiring aggregators to pay if they link content.

The Google News pages, available in many languages, have been extremely popular as a go-to site for news since 2002.  The decision by Google Inc. to shutter their Spanish news service is the first shutdown of one of their major services.

The new Spanish intellectual property law would have required Google to pay for every article linked on their news site, so Google decided to shut down rather than pay.  This also applies to news reports in English if originated from Spanish publishers such as the popular El Pais newspaper in Madrid.  This means that all of us in Mexico will not see news from Spain via Google News.

Some readers may not be clear as to exactly what an aggregator is.  Examples of news aggretrators are Daily Beast, Reddit, DrudgeReport, HotSheet, and Google News.  These news aggregator sites may include little if any original content, but rather provide links to top stories found on other news websites around the globe.  None of these news aggregators may now link to news sources headquartered in Spain without paying a royalty to do so.

This new tax applies only to news aggregator sites and not to individuals, so that means that individual users like you and I can still search for news in Spanish, we just will not find it conveniently arranged for us on one Google News page, nor will any other news sites such as the New York Times or The Guadalajara Reporter be able to provide links to Spanish sites without paying.  This almost certainly means that fewer web pages will link to any web sites that are located in Spain in order to avoid paying the associated fees.

The Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) lobbied for the new law nicknamed the “Google Tax” making it sound like a money grab.  The law allows Spanish news sites to bill Google for articles Google News features.  It looks like the Spaniards will earn zero if Google shuts down their Spanish news site.  To further cloud the issue, the Spanish law appears to mandate that all owners of websites in Spain bill aggregators, but the law does not specify how much.

In Germany, changes in copyright law pushed news aggregators such as Google to get permission from newspapers before linking to their sites.  I understand that almost all newspaper sites gave this permission, apparently because they want Google to send them more web traffic that translates into more advertising revenue.

Clearly there is something going on here I do not understand if it appears on one hand that news sites want Google to drive more revenue-generating traffic to them, but on the other hand not.  It is also possible this is an argument over the way Google News words short summaries or snippets of the linked articles.

Jeremy Malcolm speaking for the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in that “it is hard to see what value this has achieved for the press in Spain or for Spanish [speaking] internet users.”  The EFF is also concerned about the erosion of the right to link because another part of the new Spanish law places criminal liability on website operators who link to copyright-infringing material.  It is not at all clear how Spanish authorities think they will be able to enforce the new law outside their borders.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico.  The opinions expressed are his own.  He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.