Spanish ancillary right over news content leads Google to terminate News in Spain

by Pedro Malaquias

Google has announced that, on 16 December, it is going to shut down Google News in Spain and remove Spanish publishers from the service [link]. According to the company, ‘Google News is a computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalized interests’.

The move is taken as a reaction to the forthcoming  entry into force (1 January 2015) of the new Spanish Intellectual Property Law (for further background information on the Spanish IP reform, see this and this) and, in particular, its Article 32(2). Under this provision, online news aggregators shall pay an equitable remuneration to right holders for the use of small snippets taken from news publications.

As a result and considering the size of the concerned player, the establishment of an ancillary copyright for news contents seems to be going up in flames. Google will stop providing the service in Spain (and lose access to certain data) and Spanish costumers will lose the chance to use it. Content providers will not be paid and will lose the revenues that could have resulted from click in advertisements from users that were directed to their websites from Google News. Everyone seems to be losing.

This resembles the failure of a similar initiative in Germany. However, in this country, the so-called Google Tax resulted in VG Media collecting money from news aggregators and search engines, but licencing the same content to Google (the market leader) for free. A similar outcome seems unlikely in Spain. That is so as the right cannot be waived and requires those who wish to display non-insignificant excerpts to pay a licence fee.

These outcomes should lead Günther Oettinger, the new EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, to better reflect on the future introduction of a similar kind of paracopyright at an EU level (see here). The possibility of solving the issues with this ancillary right via the net neutrality debate should also be followed with particular care (on this aspect, see here).