Spain has passed a new law forcing the American giant Google to pay newspapers a fee every time it links to one of their news stories on its search engine.
The law, known as the Canon AEDE, states that sites which link to a news article alongside a meaningful description will have to pay a bill to the publisher.
“It has been called ‘Google Tax’ because it is easier to describe it, but it clearly includes anyone else doing aggregation” says founder & CEO of Spanish digital publisher Weblogs SL and a member of the coalition against Canon AEDE, Julio Alonso in an article by The Independent.
The reason why the new law has been met with some controversy is because it fails to state that other media platforms, such as social media networks, will not be affected. Even though the government has stated that the law is not aimed at these particular platforms it is not outlined in the proposal, leaving the lines a little too blurred for some. The bill will be reaching the upper house of the Spanish Parliament this September so all hope of amending it is not totally lost.
So why has the Spanish government felt it necessary to take such drastic steps especially after similar bills in Belgium, Germany and France were passed with no effect?
The Spanish newspaper industry has been struggling for some time, under the new legislation supporters say it could raise as much as €80 million and could therefore save the industry, which in effect means saving jobs and steering clear of another dent in the already fragile economy.
Spain’s Culture Ministry claims that the new law is nothing but an updated version of the existing law which tackles physical “news-clipping” services.
The Spanish law differs from others passed before it by making the fee that will be payable by Google an ‘inalienable right’ (derecho irrenunciable) rather than an obligation and could override any concept of fair use. Critics have attacked the bill calling it backwards and dangerously vague.
The idea of ‘Taxing Links’ opens up a flurry of questions like how will the bill be enforced, does Spain have the man power to implement and monitor this type of procedure? Will the upper house of the Spanish parliament add a clause to exclude social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter from the bill? And how will this affect the future of online publications, could we see link aggregators, such as Google News, no longer directing traffic back to websites….surely this would only result in harming the newspaper industry rather than helping it?
Whatever the outcome in September the world will be watching to see how effective the new law is and if successful, although highly doubted by many, we may see other countries soon follow suit.