Google News is an aggregator service that collects information from online news publishing websites and then offers that information in small snippets to the public. The payoff for the publishers is that the snippets also contain links that go back to the publisher’s websites. There are other news aggregators out there, but Google News is the largest in the world and it helps smaller publications to be able to compete with larger ones in just about every country.
For some reason, the news associations throughout the European continent saw Google News as an opportunity to make money off of Google itself. Starting with Belgium and continuing to Germany, several countries passed laws creating a tax that would pay a small portion of copyright funds to every publication that Google linked to. In each country, Google made small changes to help offset any potential extra costs and in each country the publishers cried foul. But in Spain, the government took things a step further and now publishers in Spain are suffering because of it.
The Spanish Anti-Piracy Law
One of the features of the other laws enacted in Europe regarding Google News and other aggregators is that publishers could opt-out of receiving their cut of the tax in exchange for traffic from Google. In Spain, the law became mandatory for every publisher, which meant that Google would have to figure out a way to pay copyright payments to every publisher every time Google News shared a link. The costs would have been astronomical.
Google’s response was to shut down Google News in Spain entirely. The Spanish newspaper publisher’s group tried to get the Spanish government to force Google to reopen Google News in Spain so the publishers could collect the tax, but the government could not do that. The end result has been no news sharing on Google for Spanish publishers or news readers.
How Bad Is It?
TechDirt.com did a story about the impact of this new Spanish tax on the Spanish publishing industry and the results have been devastating. Smaller publishers are unable to compete in the marketplace and many are starting to go out of business. Even the larger publishers are missing out on significant revenue because of the lack of Google News.
But for the people of Spain, the problem is much deeper than some missing revenue for publishers. Without the ability to share the latest news and information, the ability to advance education and information in Spain is severely hampered. Unlike the free flow of information enjoyed in North America, the Spanish public is not getting any real sharing of new information and that is causing a lot of problems.
The question now remains as to what Spain will do about this. Belgium and Germany are already considering repealing their Google News tax, but neither of those countries is seeing the severe impact that Spain is seeing. Over the coming months, it will be interesting to see if Spain repeals its law, or if the Spanish government continues to side with the publishing industry in an attempt to strong-arm more revenue out of Google.