Google Pulls Out The Nuclear Option: Shuts Down Google News In Spain Over Ridiculous Copyright Law

from the bad-copyright-policy dept

Back in October, we noted that Spain had passed a ridiculously bad Google News tax, in which it required any news aggregator to pay for snippets and actually went so far as to make it an “inalienable right” to be paid for snippets — meaning that no one could choose to let any aggregator post snippets for free. Publishers have to charge any aggregator. This is ridiculous and dangerous on many levels. As we noted, it would be deathly for digital commons projects or any sort of open access project, which thrive on making content reusable and encouraging the widespread sharing of such content.

Apparently, it’s also deathly for Google News in Spain. A few hours ago, Google announced that due to this law, it was shutting down Google News in Spain, and further that it would be removing all Spanish publications from the rest of Google News. In short, Google went for the nuclear option in the face of a ridiculously bad law:

But sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we?ll shortly have to close Google News in Spain. Let me explain why. This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it?s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we?ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.

Every time there have been attempts to get Google to cough up some money to publishers in this or that country, people (often in our comments) suggest that Google should just “turn off” Google News in those countries. Google has always resisted such calls. Even in the most extreme circumstances, it’s just done things like removing complaining publications from Google News, or posting the articles without snippets. In both cases, publishers quickly realized how useful Google News was in driving traffic and capitulated. In this case, though, it’s not up to the publishers. It’s entirely up to the law.

The reason the law made it an “inalienable right” was to prevent Google from just removing those publishers. Instead, the end result is it got Google to shut down the whole thing, and deprive every Spanish publication not of money, but of traffic — which may be much more important.

For centuries publishers were limited in how widely they could distribute the printed page. The Internet changed all that — creating tremendous opportunities but also real challenges for publishers as competition both for readers? attention and for advertising Euros increased. We?re committed to helping the news industry meet that challenge and look forward to continuing to work with our thousands of partners globally, as well as in Spain, to help them increase their online readership and revenues.

And the really stupid thing in all this is that, as Google notes, it wasn’t even placing ads on Google News in Spain. So it’s not even that publishers could claim that Google was “profiting” from driving such traffic to their sites.

So, nice going Spanish politicians. Your new copyright law not only makes you a laughingstock for pushing a ridiculous industry-driven legislation, but you’ve made life worse off for everyone. Citizens lose an important way to find relevant news. Publishers lose a big traffic driver. Open access and digital commons are now effectively dead in Spain as well. Who has won here?

Even if you’re a Google hater who is happy to see a country pass a clearly anti-Google law, there are much bigger issues here, as pointed out by the EFF, which highlights how this law is an attack on the basic right to link:

What concerns EFF more is that these ancillary copyright laws form part of a broader trend of derogation from the right to link. This can be seen when you examine the other parts of the Spanish copyright amendments that take effect in January (here in PDF)?notably placing criminal liability on website operators who refuse to remove mere links to copyright-infringing material.

This year’s European Court of Justice ruling against Google Spain on the so-called Right to be Forgotten, is part of the same larger trend, in requiring search engines to remove links to content judged to be ?irrelevant?, even if the content is true. We are also disturbed by comments made by new European Digital Commissioner G?nther Oettinger who has foreshadowed [German] a broader roll-out of ancillary copyright rules throughout the EU.

Online intermediaries may be a convenient scapegoat for the fading fortunes of European newspaper publishers, but banning the use of text snippets alongside website links is a misguided and?now self-evidently?counter-productive approach. 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.

Hopefully politicians in the rest of Europe take notice, before pushing forward with similarly short-sighted attacks on linking and aggregating.

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Comments on “Google Pulls Out The Nuclear Option: Shuts Down Google News In Spain Over Ridiculous Copyright Law”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’ve clearly mistaken me for a different troll. That’s the first time I’ve made that remark (or any equivalent remark) here.

And besides: I’m not trolling. “Intellectual property” is an oxymoron: it’s the fatuous conceit of inferior people who can’t grasp the rather rudimentary idea that ideas are not and can not be property. In their ignorance, in their greed, in their self-centered and entirely myopic world view, they have the audacity to believe that ideas are not the shared property of everyone, but merely their own.

And they are so fixated on this, so sure of it, so doggedly determined to adhere to it, that they are willing to hold back science, kill millions (one of the effects of IP laws on drugs), retard progress, inhibit education, and stymie justice. All because they think ideas can be property.

These people are enemies of humanity — as much as any mass-murdering dictator or freedom-destroying tyrant. They do damage on an enormous scale and justify it — at least to themselves and those like them — by claiming that their non-existent “property” rights trump all.

They are despicable.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

i’m with you, the harms done under the name of copyright are born by us all, but the benefits ONLY accrue to (mostly) korporate personages…
on balance, be BETTER OFF with ZERO copyright laws…

will repeat what i saw on a comment elsewhere: okay, bigshot korporate copy maximalists, let us adopt YOUR VALUES/MEANINGS, and make ‘intellectual property’ a real thing…
NOW, let us TAX IP at some reasonable rate and find out how loud you squeal that ‘intellectual property’ isn’t ‘property’ after all…
slime balls, all of them…

Anonymous Coward says:

I suspect there are going to be some politicians in Spain gonna be hunting dark holes to crawl in when the blame starts getting passed around.

Those that were pushing for payment for everything and counting their money before it came in are in for a rude shock when their citizens have to go to other countries to find out what is going on in their own.

Heaven help that the people of Spain get pissed and refuse to buy magazines and newspapers.

Anonymous Coward says:

as usual, the problem is ‘linked’ for want of a better term, to the incessantly greedy entertainment industries, of one form or another. although it is a shame that Google has had to take this drastic action, it is a bigger shame that so many governments and courts are always gunning for it! it just seems to me that Google isn’t liked, simply because of it’s success in many fields and it’s overall size. the thing i think Google itself should have done a long time ago is to have made a much greater, firmer stance against those industries mentioned above and also stuck up more for the people it relies on so much to keep it successful, us the ordinary citizens! it has done a lot in trying to keep the entertainment industries happy, to stop the continual whinging and whining but it has never been enough. if Google were to try to make a serious stand against things now, it has already left it too late, and shot itself down! i wouldn’t be surprised if it did try to make a stand, the lateness of doing so going against it, that various courts and governments would fight to get it disbanded altogether!! just what is wanted and heading towards since the ridiculous move by the EU and it’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’! that was done to please certain important, influential figures and i’ll bet is just a step towards what is really wanted, ie, the right to stop various information from being shown on the website, which is a move to massive censorship!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Just a battle, not the war

I think it’ll be interesting to see the spin that arises from this at the EU. Their recent proposal that search engines should be separated off from any other activities performed by a company doesn’t really have anything to do with this (or with reality, for that matter) but I can see it being used as supporting evidence of Google being a “bad actor” that needs to be brought down to size.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Just a battle, not the war

No no, big difference.

The rich and powerful, they buy the government.

A large company like Google ‘pushes around’ the government by refusing to go comply with a law designed to screw them over and instead removing the aspects of their business that would have been affected.

Only one of those puts money in political pockets, and is therefor acceptable, the other doesn’t, and is therefor a heinous abuse of power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just a battle, not the war

One of the most important reasonings for splitting Google is to ensure that NSA doesn’t have as unproblematic access to Googles data as the Ireland court order suggested. It is about making data valuable for NSA to buy from foreign secret services instead of acquiring from other means…

I don’t agree that search needs to be separated from every other service. I just hope for the advertisement part being split from search in all the large search engines. In that way the valuation of the services provided by a search company will be closer to a free market valuation.

bob (profile) says:

Typical GOOG apology-- you don't get something for nothing

Only GOOG could believe that they could get something for nothing. Reporting stories takes time and energy. Yet they didn’t want to kick back any of their revenues to support the reporters. For shame.

So I say, “Good riddance to Google News, Leeches All.”

And quit quoting the EFF, another group funded by GOOG for moments just like this. They’re just lapdogs who do what their master says.

This has nothing to do with linking. It has to do with quoting and repurposing facts without adding to the dialog.

I have no problem with the way that this blog uses extensive quotes from hard working reporters because it usually adds something to the debate. (Yes, it adds the wrong headed, muddled opinion, but that’s your right.) GOOG adds nothing.

And why does GOOG continue to maintain that it makes nothing off of news. That’s not what Marissa Mayer claimed.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Typical GOOG apology-- you don't get something for nothing

and it wont matter in any way…. it isnt the news sites that took the action, its legislation.
Sure they will run back to google screaming for them to turn it back up… but the spanish govt has pretty much forced google into the position with no alternative way out.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Typical GOOG apology-- you don't get something for nothing

So, no facts, tortured logic and outright lies? It’s a day with an y in it already? Time does fly…

“So I say, “Good riddance to Google News, Leeches All.””

Who are you referring to when you say that? The site that provides a useful service, the people who use that service for free to find news stories or the news sites that depend on the traffic sent via said service without paying them for the traffic? You have to be clearer as to who you’re lying about.

“And why does GOOG continue to maintain that it makes nothing off of news. That’s not what Marissa Mayer claimed. “

Oh dear, your reading comprehension is sending you into fictional wonderlands again? From the header of the article you linked:

“Google News might not make money on its own, but it drives $100 million worth of search.”

She doesn’t say they make money, she says that news makes no money directly, but generates other revenue. You know, like the article you attacking clearly says.

So, still too stupid to understand the difference between direct revenue and leveraging free services to generate revenue elsewhere? You know, like everyone keeps saying your failing heroes should do instead of obsessing over how much they could make if only they could outlaw competition?

You’d have thought you’d at least have stumbled across reality once or twice in all the time you’ve spent bullshitting here.

prodigitalson (profile) says:

Re: Typical GOOG apology-- you don't get something for nothing

So let me get this straight… you think this is good for publishers and consumers? I don’t understand in what universe this could be construed that way. No one is going to pay for the ability to publish a quote from an article, or link up a headline and article. Thats ridiculous, and its in direct conflict with how the internet and search engines work.

If anything google and other search engines are helping drive traffic to the originating sites. I mean no one is going to go to 3 sources individually and search a topic… aggregation just makes sense.

Khaim (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Spying

“Spy” is a rather derogatory term. They collect information to provide services. One of those services happens to be “ads for things you actually care about”.

It’s like saying your bank or phone company is “spying” on you because they have all this personal data. If you want to use their product then there’s no way for them not to have your data.

In both cases no humans will ever see your data. In theory they could, but personally I trust Google’s internal data security a lot more than BigBankInc or EvilPhoneCompany.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Spying

“”Spy” is a rather derogatory term.”

That’s why I used it.

“One of those services happens to be “ads for things you actually care about”.”

Which isn’t actually a service from my point of view. That’s how you’re paying.

“It’s like saying your bank or phone company is “spying” on you because they have all this personal data.”

You misunderstand. Data collected that is relevant to and used exclusively for providing me with goods and services is not what I’m talking about.

But Google collects far more than that. Google collects everything it can (whether its relevant to providing me services I asked for or not)in order to build as complete of a profile on me as a consumer that they can. They do this not to facilitate the services they provide me with, but so they can sell ad space for more money.

“In both cases no humans will ever see your data.”

That couldn’t be less relevant.

“In theory they could, but personally I trust Google’s internal data security a lot more than BigBankInc or EvilPhoneCompany.”

Internal security also doesn’t enter into it. Internal security is an effort to stop the data from being used in ways the company doesn’t want it to be used. My concern is about the activities the company does engage in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just wait until the publishers in Spain start complaining to Google about this. The last time this happened, Google removed all links to those media organizations from Google’s websites all across the spectrum because they wanted to get paid and then they withdrew when they saw their web traffic drop dramatically.

This new copyright law is going to do the same thing but this time around, it isn’t going to be an easy fix because this is a law that has been passed in Spain. Not only is web traffic going to drop for all of those media organizations in Spain, but Google News is being shut down in Spain and all references to those media organizations is being wiped from Google News all across the spectrum.

Nicely done, Spain has killed web traffic for Spain news organizations in their own country.

Anonymous Coward says:

I also find it odd that Mike left out some important facts when writing the article above. It’s not the politicians who pushed for this law. ironically, Spain’s AEDE association, which represents large news publishers, lobbied for the law nicknamed the “Google Tax.”

AEDE might have royally screwed their publishers over this law. I just love irony. Good luck, Spain news organizations, I hope you can generate web traffic by yourself, because Google isn’t going to help you on that front.

Anonymous Coward says:

According to commenters on Spanish websites, while a small few are praising the new law, the majority are slamming the Spanish government over this law, stating that it’s dumb to enforce this law with unemployment rates at 25%.

No wonder Spain has such a high unemployment rate, when they pass moronic laws such as this copyright law.

I expect a short time before Spanish news media starts bitching about Google News shutting down and the resulting media backlash over the new law.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

More proof that European legislators are idiots...

Google doesn’t monopolize the search industry. It doesn’t control the search industry. It doesn’t steal anything from anyone.

Google links to information on people’s sites. For google news, it includes small snippets that whet the appetites of readers making them want to visit the news sites.

Readers / Users pick Google search and Google news because they’ve come to know and trust Google’s results.

All of these idiotic European legislators that are believing greedy corporations over their own constituents wants (remember, it’s their constituents that use Google) just shows who’s really in charge in Europe (America isn’t any different with our corporate overlords ruling Congress and the White House).

Mr. Oizo says:

Re: More proof that European legislators are idiots...

Google doesn’t steal ? Yeah right. Their employees are often naive young nerds that are seriously underpaid for their qualifications. How many open source did Google fork off to make a mess of it ? In effect given a negative value back. (Think android, which is now more windows like in regard to stability than linux).

Mr. Oizo says:

Re: More proof that European legislators are idiots...

and let us not forget the constant bait-and-switch strategies they use. Have a website making 250 EUR/month on ads, you have to switch to admob… making 5 cents per month. How can you explain that their profits keep on rising while the payouts for ads is abysmal low.

New Mexico Mark says:

Some things never change

I went to Spain when I was young and in the military (over 30 years ago). I walked out of the airport to find a taxi, and being inexperienced, I only saw taxis next to the curb, not a single-file line of taxis, I just walked to the nearest one, which happened to not be the first one. I was getting ready to put my bags in when the first taxi driver came running up yelling at the driver of the one I had chosen. They started yelling back and forth and it eventually devolved into a fist fight. Meanwhile, I had already grabbed my bags and put them in a third cab whose driver was more than glad to help me get to my destination.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even if Spain’s news publishers demand that Google News be turned back on, there’s nothing they can do about it now. Simply because the damage has already been done.

Why? Because this wasn’t just a simple demand for licensing fees, this is now a law that goes into effect in two weeks. What would happen is that Spain’s legislature would have to draft a new bill to repeal the draconian copyright law they passed in the first place and with many legislatures preparing to go on holiday break, that’s unlikely to happen.

Google News shuts down on Tuesday. It would take weeks before a new bill is drafted to release the law and even longer to get an approved vote to repeal the law. They can’t just automatically repeal the law. They actually need to vote to repeal the law and even then, it’s no guarantee that Google would restore the service.

If Google were smart, they would avoid Spain because Spain and Germany keep trying to come up with new ways to squeeze money out of Google to get them to pay licensing fees. It’s only been about one thing, getting free money from Google.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m waiting for the eventual lawsuits that will be filed against Spain’s copyright law when all of those smaller news publications start shutting down. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that this was a plot by AEDE to use this law to shut down the smaller news publishers and to gain that traffic instead.

If those larger news publishers don’t think that Google News shutting down won’t affect them, they are more deluded than they think. In the end, they’ll also see their traffic drop slightly but that the backlash against publishers represented by AEDE may see them biting off more than they thought.

Dan Meadows (user link) says:

Is there any standard for what pubs are required to charge? Is it possible some Spanish publishers could pull what Amazon did when they were forced to stop free shipping and decided to charge 1 cent. Could they call Google up and say, we’ll “charge” you 1/1,000,000 of a cent per link or whatever the Spanish equivalent of a penny is? I suspect with the plethora of bad laws coming out of the EU of late, that we’re going to see the EU splinter and fall apart over the next decade or so. Passing horrible laws that restrict commerce and then forcing austerity on people when their economies continue to tank isn’t going to be a long-term growth strategy.

John85851 (profile) says:

Good for Google

Good for Google for doing this. If a government makes it so hard for a company to do business in a country, then the company has every right to stop doing business there.

But the bigger question is whether other search and news sites have to follow the same rule? Was this a “Google only” tax or will Bing follow? And if the tax applies to everyone, what will happen to all the Spanish publications if NO search engine will list them?

streetlight (profile) says:

What about using a VPN to get the news?

Most, if not all, the comments here are about the law and Google. What about Internet subscribers? These folks will be missing an important resource used for getting the news which they might not get any other way. Would subscribers get around the law and access their missing news by accessing a foreign, Spanish language news aggregator by using a VPN? I don’t know the answer. Besides, I don’t think Spain can tax foreign aggregators of Spanish news.

David says:

The law is working as intended.

Remember: this law was pushed by an association of large news providers. Those are providers pandering to the Spain government, and they are providers with a reasonably large portfolio.

Google News was most useful when you were looking for something not covered timely by the mainstream. It was making people aware of good small news sites giving a different picture.

Without working search engines, the Spanish populace will mostly look for its news on sites covered by household news providers.

The purpose of pushing for these laws was not getting money from Google. It was killing the competition.

For that reason, the competition is not allowed to grant Google royalty-free access to even the smallest bit of their news and thus gather attention.

The parties having pushed for this law are the parties for which the dark ages of information were the golden times, and they got them back.

They got what they greased the politicians for, and they want it. The losers are the small publishers who now slip under the radar of the public, and the public which is kept dumb by the government-coddling large publishers.

Or in other words: the free market and democracy were kneed in the groin and dialed back a big notch.

Pragmatic says:

Re: The law is working as intended.

The market is working as intended. It has never been free; major players with the most spending power have always been able to pull crap like this.

Meanwhile, every effort to get their claws out of our backs (we’ve always been taxed to subsidize them one way or another) gets characterized as socialism or govt. interference and therefore evil.

True democracy demands government by the people for the people that protects the weak from the strong. That means we sometimes need government interference in business when it’s in the public interest. This is a case in point; the interference in this instance was in the alleged interests of the Spanish publishers. We’ll soon see whether or not it was in their actual interests. As for the public, corporations are people, my friend. Human beings, not so much.

Please can we all agree that if we’re going to be governed by any system, it’s got to be in our best interests as human beings, not to put money in some overfed CEO’s offshore bank account? They’re not using that extra income to create the jobs we were promised.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Other search engines exist; people will use them instead.”

More like: other news sources exist. People will use them instead of the ones they used to be linked to through Google. They will use Google to search for everything else non-news related.

“There’s still an internet in Spain.”

Along with a bunch of people who haven’t worked out how to use it profitably yet.

Harlon Katz says:

Re: Re: Re: How?

How is this a “Libertarian” wet dream. You have government interference causing Google to leave the market? People are not being responsible for themselves, they have the government “being responsible” for them, or at least being responsible for an agent for them, even if it was only the agent and the larger “thems” (publishers) that wanted this deal.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

I noticed something about this law, that wasn’t mentioned in the article. The copyright law in Spain basically seeks to demand Google News pay news publishers for linking to their websites. While the copyright law also lists ‘news snippets’, the text of the law does state that news aggregators pay licensing fees for snippets as well as pay for linking to news publisher websites in Spain not to mention making it illegal to link to news aggregator websites that are now classified as ‘pirate’ websites if they don’t pay up.

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