Within fifteen days of Spain's new Intellectual Property Law coming into force, Google News has announced that it will suspend the activity of its Spanish subsidiary as of today, December 16, 2014. The new law, which will take effect on January 1, 2015, requires that aggregators like Google News, Menéame, or Reddit pay a fee for reproducing even small fragments of news published in online newspapers.
The law was promoted heavily by the Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE), an organization of which major Spanish newspapers such as El País, El Mundo, and ABC are members. These large traditional media outlets have seen their circulation figures plummet for several years and intend to offset this loss of readers with the tax. The new law considers the Google tax an “unalienable right” that should be applied to all newspapers in Spain, whether or not they agree with the measure.
In a statement published on his blog, the global head of Google News, Richard Gingras, explains the decision to shut down the service:
Dado que Google Noticias es un servicio que no genera ingresos (no mostramos publicidad en el sitio web), este nuevo enfoque resulta sencillamente insostenible.
Por ello, lamentablemente, el 16 de diciembre (…) procederemos a retirar a los editores españoles de Google Noticias y a cerrar Google Noticias en España.
Given that Google News is a service that does not generate revenue (we do not post ads on the website), this new approach is simply unsustainable.
Therefore, regrettably, on December 16 (…) we will proceed to remove the Spanish Google News publishers and shut down Google News in Spain.
This news, although not surprising to anyone, has created a stir on the Internet, not only in Spain, but also among online media in other countries, which were unanimous in criticizing the new law. Tim Worstall calls the law “an example of purblind incompetence” in Forbes Magazine, while the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jeremy Malcolm says that the law forms “part of a broader trend of derogation from the right to link.” He adds:
Once it becomes illegal for aggregators to freely link news summaries to publicly-available websites, it becomes that much easier for those who want to prohibit other sorts of links, such as links to political YouTube videos, to make their case.
On his blog, Professor Enrique Dans dissects the political changes that led to the development of the law – which he labels “absurd” and “nonsense” – and concludes:
Enhorabuena, gobierno de España. Siguiendo las directrices de AEDE, una de las asociaciones más caducas y cavernícolas del mundo, habéis conseguido evidenciar que España es una corruptocracia en la que cualquier grupo de presión puede escribir leyes a su antojo (aunque sean abierta y claramente tan demenciales como ésta), en la que los periódicos condicionan su línea editorial a la financiación gubernamental, y en la que el gobierno no tiene la más maldita idea de cómo funciona internet.
Congratulations, Spanish government. Following the guidelines of the AEDE, one of the most outdated and caveman-like organizations in the world, you have managed to show that Spain is a corruptocracy in which any lobbyist can write laws at will (even if they are as openly and clearly insane as this one), where newspapers limit their publishing according to governmental funding and the government does not have a damn clue about how the Internet works.
Arsenio Escolar, editor of online paper 20 Minutos, takes to his blog to explain that the law only pleases the most powerful members of the AEDE, while the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodicals (AEEPP), more numerous and representative of the Spanish press, is totally against the IPL:
Todo es una expresión genuina, una vez más, de nuestra Marca España: conchabeos entre el poder y la prensa, y nada de libre mercado o libre competencia, nada que fomente la pluralidad y la libertad de prensa. (…)
El cierre de Google News (…) lo vamos a pagar todos los medios, los tradicionales y los nuevos. Nuestra visibilidad en la red se reducirá, nuestro tráfico también, nuestros ingresos probablemente también… Veremos lo que tardan algunos editores tradicionales -autovíctimas de su propia iniciativa- en pedirle a Google que reabra su Google News.
Everything is a genuine expression, once again, of our Marca España: illicit pacts between power and the press, nothing of free market or free competition, nothing that promotes pluralism and freedom of the press. (…)
The shutdown of Google News (…) all of us, both in traditional and new media, will pay for. Our network visibility will be reduced, as well as our traffic, our revenues probably too… We will see how long it takes some traditional publishers — victims of their own initiative — to ask Google to reopen Google News.
Since the news broke, the debate has grown on Twitter where “AEDE” and “Google News” remain among the most searched words.
Es decir, que google news nos ha hecho un “boom! In your face losers!”. Bien merecido!
— Emilio J. Higinio (@EmilioHiginio) December 12, 2014
This is to say that google news has given us a “boom! In your face losers!” Well deserved!
#AEDE #Jiwert, imagine that El Corte Ingles's suppliers asked them for money for displaying their products in the windows. You have to be stupid…!
Following Google's announcement, it seems that the AEDE media have realized the tremendous damage brought on by being removed from a service as popular as Google News, and have surprised everyone with a statement in which they admit that “Google (…) is the true gateway to the Internet” and require “the intervention of Spanish and EU authorities, as well as those of competition, to effectively protect the rights of citizens and businesses.” As such, AEDE's unexpected change in tone was celebrated on Twitter:
¿La AEDE pretende prohibir a una empresa extranjera que cierre? ¿Y cómo lo va a hacer? ¿Con tanques? Jojojojojojo. — OIER FANO (@oierfano) December 12, 2014
The AEDE intends to prohibit a foreign company from closing? And how is it going to do that? With tanks? Hahahahahaha
Lo van a tener difícil los medios AEDE para superar el ridículo que están haciendo. Pero no les infravaloremos, ellos pueden
— Gabriel Ruiz (@gabir) December 12, 2014
It is going to be difficult for the AEDE media to overcome the ridiculousness they are creating. But we won't underestimate them, they can do it.
Minister Wert, responsible for the IPL, was quick to downplay the whole thing, claiming that Google has rushed to shut down, since they could have negotiated the amount of the media tax, ignoring the fact that Google refuses on principle to pay for what they consider to be a basic right on the Internet: the link.
As blogger Faircry states on Probably Fair:
…vamos a ver cómo se desarrolla todo esto y si los viejunos peninsulares al poder consiguen regular “el internete” ese invento del demonio, o no.
Pero el futuro de la prensa escrita pasa por internet, y morder la mano que te da de comer se llame Google o Bing o Baidu o Menéame o Reddit no puede tener muy buen resultado.
… Let's see how this develops and if the old Peninsular Spaniards in power manage to regulate “the Internet”, this satanic invention, or not. But the future of the written press passes through the internet, and biting the hand that feeds you, be it Google or Bing or Baidu or Menéame or Reddit, cannot bring about good results.