Google Tax Backlash

Spanish search fight


Last October, Spain's parliament passed a law, pushed by the country's big publishers, that revised copyright regulations to require payments for quoting even snippets of writing from media sources online. The law further gives news publishers an "inalienable right" to these payments that cannot be surrendered, even by the publishers themselves.

Some observers called it the "Google tax," as it was obviously designed to try to wring money out of online services that link to media outlets and include short excerpts of text, much like the service Google News provides. Thus, not allowing publishers to refuse the money made a certain sort of sense. If nobody is allowed exemptions, Google can't include in its news aggregation only those publishers who let them excerpt their stories for free. Google and other search services would have to pay everybody, so the publishers pushing this payment scheme couldn't be punished through market choices.

Alternatively, Google could decide not to aggregate any Spanish news at all, defeating the purpose of the tax. That is exactly what it did. In December, the tech giant announced it would be shutting down its news aggregation service in Spain entirely. No publishers would be getting money from Google, nor would their sites be getting the page view boosts that come from Google's links. Now the same groups that attempted to require payments from Google are trying to get the Spanish government to somehow prevent the company from closing up shop.