Google has announced that, in a few days, it will remove Spanish news publishers’ content from its Google News service and close this service in Spain.
Well, this really does not get any nearer of being a surprise. In fact, it actually was the most expectable outcome, considering the amendments to the Spanish intellectual property law passed last October. As you might well remember, this law imposes on Spanish publishers to charge a compulsory licensing fee for the use of snippets of text from their articles by news aggregators. As a consequence, not only newspapers would get to choose to have their publications be included on Google News (after all, it is free publicity and generates traffic and revenues), this law also now compels them to be paid for it.
This extraordinary piece of legislation was intended to succeed where a similar German law (the ancillary copyright law), introduced in 2013, had previously failed. Pretending to avoid that, once they realized the loss of traffic associated with not being indexed on Google News, publishers would voluntarily waived their right to a licensing fee, a unprecedented inalienable right to payment was therefore created, meaning that no one could allow the use of snippets for free. However, considering that, from the very first draft, it was particularly directed to Google, this law is now pre-empted before even entering into force on the first day of January.
Thus said, it is quite easy to predict that 2015 will not start well for Spanish publishers. Not only won’t they be able to obtain from Google the desirable fees for the use of excerpts from their publications, but they won’t be able to benefit either from the traffic directed to their websites and the revenues which are associated to advertising. This will certainly affect the most the weakest existing publishing businesses or the startups intending to enter the publishing market.
Perhaps learning something from this would not be such a bad new year’s resolution for the EU and for other Member States regarding similar legislative initiatives.