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Google News goes through with decision to shut down service in Spain

Tech giant makes move after government introduces fee for using article fragments

The Google España home page. Ampliar foto
The Google España home page. AFP

Search engine Google on Tuesday carried out its decision to close its Google News service in Spain in response to the country’s new Intellectual Property law, which from January 2015 will force it and other similar news aggregators to pay a charge to publishers for indexing and using fragments of their stories.

People will still be able to search for Spanish articles using the regular Google search engine, but not through Google News, which operates in 70 countries and is available in 35 languages.

The service had 385,000 unique visitors a month in Spain, without counting data from smartphone users. The country has become the first in the world where the tech giant has chosen to suspend its service.

We’re incredibly sad to announce that we have closed Google News in Spain”

Google statement

“Sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we’ll shortly have to close Google News in Spain,” the head of the service, Richard Gringras, explained on his blog last week. “As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site), this new approach is simply not sustainable.”

From now on, anyone who tries to access Google News from Spain will be redirected to a web page where the company justifies its decision: “We’re incredibly sad to announce that, due to recent changes in Spanish law, we have removed Spanish publishers from Google News and closed Google News in Spain. We understand that readers like you may be disappointed, too, and we want to share the reasons behind this decision […],” reads the statement.

The reform of Spain’s Intellectual Property Law was passed in October with votes solely from the ruling Popular Party. Among the new additions to the text is the so-called “Google Tax” (also known as the AEDE canon, after the Association of Spanish Daily Publishers, which originally proposed the legislation), which establishes the “unavoidable” right of publishers to receive “fair compensation” from free news aggregation services – which also include sites such as Yahoo, Technorati and Menéame – that reproduce their content.

It was publishers who suggested a tax. Now it will be them who will have to see the impact of not having this tool”

Industry Minister José Manuel Soria

The Spanish minister responsible for culture, José Ignacio Wert, said he thought Google had jumped the gun with its decision to close Google News in Spain, given that the amount of “fair compensation” to be awarded had not yet been fixed. However, the US company announced last week that its decision was “irrevocable.”

Industry Minister José Manuel Soria nevertheless said on Tuesday that he believed that there could be scope for Google to alter its decision in the coming months, saying things could always be done in a different way.

But he warned that the impact of the closure on publishers and internet users would have to be taken into account in any future moves. “It was publishers themselves who suggested a tax on links that go directly to their site. Now it will be the industry that will have to see the impact in real terms of not having this tool. Until that is evaluated and sufficient time has passed, we won’t have the objective circumstances to adopt additional measures,” he said.

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