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Controversial new copyright laws passed in Spain

By | Published on Monday 3 November 2014


Spain last week passed some controversial new copyright laws that will come into affect in the new year, which include new rules about the removal of links through to copyright infringing material, something of interest to the music industry, which reckons search engines and other aggregators should be more proactive in removing links through to unlicensed material.

Though the element of Spain’s Ley De Propiedad Intelectual legislation to get the most coverage has been new rules specifically governing news aggregators, of which Google News is the most prolific. Such services generally only link through to legit (ie non-copyright infringing) news content, but also pull through headlines, photos and introductory paragraphs from the news sites they monitor.

The big newspaper groups complain that by pulling through that content Google gets a free news-monitoring and headlines service that brings lots of lucrative traffic to the web-giant’s platform. Google counters that it then sends millions of users onto the original sources of the news stories it lists, helping newspaper groups drive traffic to their own sites and in doing so sell advertising.

But the Association Of Editors Of Spanish Dailies lobbied hard for a change in the law forcing news aggregators like Google News to licence the content its pulls through, paying a royalty to the publishers from which the headlines and copy originates. Failure to do so in Spain could now lead to a fine as big as 600,000 euros.

Critics of the new law say that the newspapers need Google more than the web giant needs Google News, and that the law could force the firm to shut down the news aggregation set-up in Spain, which would primarily hinder the news firms that enjoy traffic via the news-specific search engine. In Germany where many newspapers were removed from Google News as a result of similar lobbying by the news companies there, some titles subsequently asked to be re-listed by the web giant.

Google itself said it was “disappointed” that the new laws had been passed, adding: “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”.

There are critics too for the new rules that extend the obligation of website owners to remove links to infringing content, rules that cover not-for-profit operations and those companies providing hosting and payment services to offending sites. Opponents to those new copyright laws argue that the new system – if fully enforced – will create fear amongst website operators, and in doing so limit their freedom of speech.