Spain Passes Copyright Law; Demands Payment For Snippets And Linking To Infringing Content

from the taxing-google dept

Apparently ignoring just how badly this worked out for publishers in Germany, the Spanish Parliament has passed a law to fine aggregators and search engines for using snippets or linking to infringing content. As plenty of folks have described, the bill is clearly just a Google tax. As we had discussed, the proposed bill would be a disaster for digital commons/open access projects. There had been some thought that the proposed bill might be delayed because of a referral to the EU Court of Justice on a related issue, but apparently that didn’t happen. Either way, it looks like the bill kept the ridiculous “inalienable right” to being paid for snippets — meaning that Creative Commons-type licenses may not even be allowed, and people won’t even be allowed to offer up their content for free. That’s ridiculous.

It appears that almost everyone dislikes the law that passed. On the internet/aggregator side of things, the law doesn’t make any sense at all, and seems likely to harm any sort of aggregator setup. And, meanwhile, those who want greater copyright expansion felt the law was a “missed opportunity” that is described as “vague and weak.” I guess the silver lining is that “it could have been worse.”

This idea of taxing aggregators for promoting your content is still completely ridiculous. It remains to be seen if Google takes the same approach as it did in Germany, removing the snippets of those who protest, only to have them begging to put them back — except that, unlike in Germany, the newspapers may not be able to grant a free license thanks to the whole “inalienable right” thing. Either way, it’s unfortunate that this seems to be the direction Europe is heading in. These kinds of laws are a recipe for chilling effects on innovation online, scaring companies away from doing useful things.

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Comments on “Spain Passes Copyright Law; Demands Payment For Snippets And Linking To Infringing Content”

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45 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

except that, unlike in Germany, the newspapers may not be able to grant a free license thanks to the whole “inalienable right” thing.

That’s not actually a bad thing I’d argue. If the newspapers can’t decide that they have no problem with Google not having to pay them in order to provide them increased traffic, and are forced to demand to be paid, whether they want to be or not, that will just help to show just how screwed up the law and the thinking behind it is.

If the newspapers and other are being told that they cannot decide who is, and is not, ‘allowed’ to use their content for free, it will just highly how the law isn’t about ‘protecting creators and copyright owners’, but is merely about adding in a parasitic third party to collect ‘tolls’.

Hopefully Google does the same thing here, as they did in Germany, and just removes the snippets entirely. With the ‘inalienable right’ bit thrown in there removing the ‘free license’ option, the only way the newspapers will be getting their increased traffic back is if the law is removed entirely, unless the lawmakers want to be so blatant as to make it clear that whether or not Google includes snippets, they are still going to be forced to pay regardless.

If they go that far… if Google is only looking at the short term I imagine they’ll once more show a lack of spine, and fold, paying out. If they look to the long term however, they’d be better off blocking users in Spain from their services entirely, as if they fold here, other countries and governments will try the exact same trick in the coming years, and having given in once will make it that much harder for them to fight back later.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

highly politically explosive as well, though I think for them to say anything would be counter productive. Let the Spanish themselves figure out why Google has no Spanish Government sites listed and why Spanish Govt cannot access Google itself.

For Google to state reasons due to their problems with Spanish Law makes them seem too biased. Silence would be better I suspect in this matter and makes the Spanish legislature explain and be on the back foot.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Silence would also give the politicians time to spin Google’s actions though, ceding the first ‘blow’ of the conflict to them.

Instead of pulling their services from the country because it’s too dangerous and costly legally to continue to operate there, suddenly they’re ‘Abusing their monopoly position by extorting the people of Spain in order to coerce the government to bend to their demands and revoke the recently passed law, due to greed and a desire not to justly compensate copyright owners’, or some such rot.

Then it would be Google on the backfoot, trying to counter the claims made by the Spanish government, rather than the other way around.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s been predicted before that IP maximalists and their political minions will attempt to outlaw the ability to give anything away for free, at least where they can. Since they can’t compete with free as far as pricing goes because they’re obsessed with profit rather than producing whatever their particular “content” is, they’ll believe that if they can outlaw amateur cat videos and independent blogs that can’t survive if they’re forced to put up a paywall, people will go back to the mythical “good ol’ days” when they paid for everything (which actually translates into a fantasy in which consumers actually pay more for every possible use). Of course this wouldn’t work out the way they imagine it would, but a delusional fantasy has never been an impediment to the IP maximalists pushing out a terrible idea.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The most messed up part? I could totally see them believing that something like that would work, and trying just that. ‘If we can make it too expensive for the ‘free’ content to be shared, then people will have to pay for any content they see/read/listen to, and with the right laws in place we can make it so they’re forced to pay us, so we can still retain control!’

Mind, it won’t work, people will always find a way around the parasites and gatekeepers, and the more they try and maintain their iron grip the more people will come to ignore or hate them and the laws they buy, but I could very much see them trying it.

Anonymous Coward says:

We really need decentralized search engines. Otherwise Google will continue being targeted for censorship and taxation by countries all over the world.

I don’t know what’s going on with Spain’s government recently. First it’s Right to be Forgotten’ and now they’re proposing ‘website referral licenses’.

Why is Spain trying to control the internet so much? Is there a Disney studio in Spain? Or are the Disney execs. throwing bags on money at Spain’s judiciary and parliament?

I just don’t get it. Spain’s been acting pretty fishy lately.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Protecting your inalienable rights, whether you want us to or not

‘Copyright owners have the inalienable right to get paid for their works!’

‘What if I don’t want to be paid? What if I think that I’m better off not asking for payment for one of my pieces, for example if I want people to share something and spread it far and wide, expanding the audience for it?’

You’re going to be charging money for it whether you like it or not, you hear us?! This is not up for debate, and you have no say in it! Now sit down, shut up, and if you’re lucky you might get a share of the money collected, once the ones who will be collecting it have taken ‘their’ share.’

David says:

Re: Re: Protecting your inalienable rights, whether you want us to or not

“Now sit down, shut up, and if you’re lucky you might get a share of the money collected”

That’s why I have Google Ads on my pages. So I do get paid for the traffic I attract by the person who is routing the traffic. Not some third party that’s going to decide my share after other more powerful content providers demand theirs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Contradictory rights

I love the maximalists pulling out “inalienable rights” out of their backsides

I dislike the way they then use those rights as a means by which they can rob the creators blind. The only inalienable right that they support is for them to get paid on behalf of the creators, while being able to use accounting tricks and abusive contracts to keep most of the money to themselves..

Anonymous Coward says:

I imagine Google will do the same thing it’s done before. Since it is a law that was passed I would imagine it will be on the first midnight bill to remove the same law once Google refuses to host Spanish sourced news. Of course this could set up a cottage industry of rewriting what was known as hot news so it is no longer recognizable as the source.

David says:

Re: Re:

Of course this could set up a cottage industry of rewriting what was known as hot news so it is no longer recognizable as the source.

The source are news agencies rather than newspapers. Google can easily afford to pay them and write its own news straight from the feed. As opposed to linking to other news outlets, that will kill the no-longer referenced newspapers dead, dead, dead.

That’s not using a cannon to shoot a mosquito. It is using a rocket thruster, the way this is going to backfire.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Investor state dispute resolution

Hmm, bit conflicted on that one.

On the one hand, I’d rather not see Google, or really any company, choose the nuclear option like that when faced with difficulties.

On the other hand, the more examples of states suddenly finding themselves facing billion dollar ‘fines’ for daring to act without consulting any companies doing business within the country, the less likely corporate sovereignty clauses will make it into treaties in the future, as governments will be much more wary of them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The difference with the German situation is that

Judging by how frantic the various newspapers have been to get re-listed as quick as possible when their ‘Get-rich-quick by shaking down Google’ schemes have backfired, I imagine even the larger papers will still be feeling the hurt over this, assuming Google is smart enough to do the same as before and simply pull the snippets.

Steve says:

I’m probably not getting the situation here but…
Is it possible that all of these moves are not connected to legacy players being paid and more geared towards exposing Google’s perceived ‘monopoly’ in order to reign them in?
After all, if Google start making big players ‘disappear,’ then won’t that eventually be seen as, perversely, Google censoring the internet?
Leaving aside any arguments that they already do that for their own gain. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Is it possible that all of these moves are not connected to legacy players being paid and more geared towards exposing Google’s perceived ‘monopoly’ in order to reign them in?

A lot of the attacks on Google are driven by companies discovering that they are not as popular as they think that they should be, and therefore do nor rank as high in the search results as they think they should.
Also newspapers are fighting the problem that because of the Internet, printed papers are out of date before they reach the streets. Therefore they want someone to replace the income that they are losing to Internet competitors.

IsabelG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Inalieble rights to collecting societies

My impression is that the “inalienable right” was put in the law so that the agencies that collect author’s rights can expand their business to new areas.

One of them, SGAE,

“has been often accused of exceeding its remit by going as far as to infiltrate private weddings to check whether fees had been paid for the music being played at the banquet.”

http://kluwercopyrightblog.com/2011/07/15/sgae-gate-spanish-collecting-society-facing-corruption/

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What monopoly? The affected part of their business here is their search engine, of which there are plenty that people can use. Is it a popular search engine? Sure, but popular, or even ‘most used'(assuming it is) does not a monopoly make.

And if the newspapers don’t want to ‘disappear'(though other than one case where the judge basically ordered Google to remove all mention of a particular newspaper, all that would ‘disappear’ are the news snippets next to the links to the source articles), then maybe they should stop trying to shake down the one providing increased traffic and advertising for them, free of charge.

If someone is helping your business by sending you customers, and you try and charge them for the ‘privilege’ of doing so, well, don’t be surprised if they don’t particularly care to continue to help you, both now and in the future.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unless Spain goes the China route and tries to actively block access to Google, how could a “Spain without Google” even work? All Google needs to do is ignore Spain entirely. If Google has no legal or physical presence in Spain, then the Spanish government can’t do anything but engage in impotent rage.

Karl from Karlsruhe says:

Different Outlooks

Actually, if TTIP and some of the other new rules being proposed get enacted, Spain and other countries may have more bite as to what they can do.

This may also inhibit much of the domain swapping we’ve seen for so long by websites such any of the torrent sites, as with more teeth to bite, countries can use harsher tactics to protect their interests against rogue actors. I doubt it would ever escalate to full scale war, but I can surely see drone strikes, as these are a powerful deterrent psychologically against a country and its inhabitants. They also get relatively no attention, in the US anyway, so it’s unlikely that there would be any political fallout, at least judging by how it’s been viewed so far.

This could be a nail in the coffin for free software as well. As most kids grow up now with “it’s disposable” and “software as a service” being the new socialized norm. Likewise, the ideas of GNU itself are outdated and old, why would you do something just for a hobby or just because without monetizing it.

These are social norms that, once the genie is out of the bottle there’s no going back in. Ask anybody in the US over 50 how many cameras there are in their daily life. You’ll likely here “too many” as an answer. Ask anyone under 30, and they likely won’t know what you’re speaking about. After all, they aren’t hiding anything.

Its not all bad. And in some ways may actually be better. Think about an Internet that only exists within apps. where rogue machines cannot connect. these rogue sites can be removed from the WWW entirely. 99% of people can get by with just twitter, FB, news and sports, pandora , bank, govt, etc. so if going online were restricted to the APIs of apps, you would see hoards of computer HW scrapped. likewise things like piracy, child porn, terrorism would become a thing of the past, online at least. That’s a world where I think we all want to be.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Different Outlooks

Aw, hell no!

That is one of the most ignorant, terrifying comments ever made, @ Karl from Karlsruhe. I really hope you’re being sarcastic.

At the end of the day, TTIP is nothing but a charter for world domination by US mulitinational corporations via ISDS.

The balkanized internet you propose would not only FAIL to solve the problems you’ve listed, it creates an horrific censorship regime in which only approved speech is permitted via approved channels.

No, no, no, no, NO!!

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