Have Spanish publishers shot themselves in the foot with Google News shutdown?

Doodle for Google

Doodle for Google

Google has shut down its News offering in Spain. The decision follows a ruling in a Spanish court that would compel Google to pay license revenues to Spanish publishers if their content appears on Google News. Google will also remove Spanish publishers from Google News. The move, seen as compulsive and a strong statement against being bullied, will occur next week on 16 December 2014.

A group of Spanish publishers, including newspaper group AEDE, tried to turn Google into a source of licensing revenue through a copyright and anti-piracy law that would have required fees for content in Google News, including headlines.

Google’s impulsive move will not affect traditional search results where news content will still appear. The law is poised to go into effect on 1 January 2015.

The Spanish law is not the first of its kind. A similar attempt happened in Germany, but in that country Google asked news publishers to sign liability waivers in order to have their “snippets” included in Google News.

The Spanish law counteracted this and made it effectively impossible for individual publishers to waive their copyright licensing “rights”, even if they disagree with the law.

Read more: If print is really dead, why are people still launching magazines?

Google’s decision means that not only will there be no more News in Spain but there will be no Spanish news publisher content in any other Google News edition, including other Spanish speaking countries. Publishers that have subsidiaries in Latin America and South America, Google will maintain this local content in its other News sites.

In a blog post, Head of Google News Richard Gingras offered an explanation on Google’s decision, stressing that the internet makes no money off Google News and the law leaves them without no choice but to shut it down.

“Google News creates real value for these publications by driving people to their websites, which in turn helps generate advertising revenues. But sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we’ll shortly have to close Google News in Spain. Let me explain why. 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. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain”.

Spanish publsihers may in hindsight regret their decision to solicit revenue from Google News and the shutting down might affect traffic as Google News drives traffic to publishers. This was proved to true in Germany when Google News rich snippet withdrawal caused a decline in traffic, causing German news consortium VG Media to declare that without its reinstatement it was on a path to bankruptcy.

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