Spain regrets Google News shutdown

Update 12/16/2014: Google News has shut down in Spain.

On the eve of Google pulling the plug on Google News in Spain, the Spanish newspaper publishers who had pushed for a stringent new copyright law seem to be having second thoughts about irking the Silicon Valley tech giant.

Google has said it will shut down Google News in Spain on Tuesday and remove all Spanish publishers from its global news index. The reason for the unprecedented move (Google News has never pulled out of a country before) is a new Spanish law taking effect Jan. 1 that would force the U.S. company and other news aggregators to pay Spanish publishers to display snippets of their news stories and link to them.

The Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association, or AEDE, pushed for the copyright rules that lawmakers passed this fall. But now the same newspaper lobby group tells The Spain Report that it wants the Spanish government or European Union to stop Google News from shutting down tomorrow “to protect the rights of citizens and businesses.”

I spoke this weekend with Pipo Serrano, a journalist and professor at the University of Barcelona, who said a lot of Spaniards are likely to be upset at their government, but probably not at Google, when Google News begins blocking Spanish news tomorrow.

Readers will still be able to search for Spain-originated news stories on Google’s main search engine, just not Google News, which uses a different algorithm.

When it comes to the Internet, “the Spanish government doesn’t know how to manage this,” Serrano said. “Instead of realizing we are in a new era, a new time, we’re trying to put patches on everything, trying to keep the old way working.”

Google has described its 13-year-old Google News service as a “go-away” site that helps news organizations by sending users directly to the original source of the news they are searching for. It indexes content from 65,000 publishers in 30 languages, though the company will not say how many publishers and users it has in Spain.

“They’re not acting as vultures, picking up everything to enrich their business,” Serrano said. “The truth is that what Google does is just show the title, the abstract, then redirects people to the newspapers.” His perspective echoes what Richard Gingras, head of Google News, said in a statement last week announcing the shutdown.

“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,” Gingras said. “As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable.”

Though nicknamed the “Google Tax” because the new Spanish law targeted the giant U.S. search engine, the copyright changes also met opposition from homegrown tech entrepreneurs such as Ricardo Galli, founder of Spanish social news website Menéame.

Galli in recent days used Twitter to mock the publishing lobby and his country’s conservative Popular Party for passing the law, and has previously threatened to move his business to another country.

Publishers in other Europeans countries have also fought for Google to pay them for linked content but none went as far as Spain. Unlike in Germany, where most news organizations opted to stay on the Google News index even if the company did not pay them, the Spanish law would have barred Google from displaying news snippets and headlines even if the publications wanted the exposure without compensation.

Above: A man reads the front page of Spanish newspaper “El Pais” on Thursday at a bar in Pamplona, in northern Spain. Google announced Thursday it will close Google News in Spain and block reports from Spanish publishers from more than 70 Google News international editions due to a new Spanish law requiring aggregators to pay to link content. (Associated Press Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)


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  • Mrwirez

    Here’s a riddle for these mental midgets…

    Q: Why Spainish lawmakers should behave like dogs??

    A: Never bite the hand that feeds.

    Only in Europe…

  • This sends a message to growing numbers of media companies putting up pay walls and restriction to news. They are just shutting down extensive customer traffic being directed to their site from numerous small newsletters and content curation sites around the world. Some old fashioned management just don’t see the benefits. They have no clue about the global ‘Open’ Movement.