The new intellectual property law, known popularly as the “Google Tax” or by its initials LPI, requires services which post links and excerpts of news articles to pay a fee to the organisation representing Spanish newspapers, the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies (known by its Spanish-language abbreviation AEDE). Failure to pay up can lead to a fine of up to €600,000.
The law is the latest volley in the war between European newspapers and Google. The publishers accuse the search firm of using their copyrighted material to build up a news service without doing any reporting itself; Google defends itself by claiming that it 10 billion views to newspapers’ websites every month.
The company says that it is “disappointed” with Spain’s new law. “We believe that services like Google News help publishers bring traffic to their sites. As far as the future is concerned, we will continue working with the Spanish publishers to help increase their revenues while we evaluate our options within the framework of the new legislation.”
A similar law passed in Germany saw Google removing the affected newspapers from Google news altogether – before the publishers eventually came back and asked to be relisted after seeing their traffic plummet, a step they said they had to take because of the “overwhelming market power of Google”.
The “Google tax” isn’t the only component of Spain’s law, which tightens up existing regulation. Once it comes into action at the beginning of 2014, the country will also require websites to remove links to material that infringes copyright, even if the websites themselves don’t make money from the infringement.
That requirement doesn’t require copyright holders to go through a judge before demanding links be removed, while imposing fines of €600,000 on sites which don’t act.
The law also applies to the third party sites providing hosting or payment services to the infringing site, something that has led opponents of the law have labelled it “censorship”, comparing it to the financial boycott of Wikileaks. “The law opens the possibility for the state to sabotage any online content simply using fear,” lawyer Carols Sanchez Almeida told Gizmodo. “Are you going to risk a fine of €600,000 to host a link? No.”
The LPI was passed by the ruling People’s Party, in the face of heavy resistance from the opposition parties, who called it “a disaster” and “a missed opportunity.”