Blackout – Google shuts down Google News in Spain over new copyright law

11 Dec 2014

Google has shut down its popular Google News service in Spain because of a new Spanish copyright law that requires every publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet.

The new law is going to go into effect on 1 January. Spanish news and magazine publishers like AEDE had lobbied to turn service like Google News into a source of licensing revenue.

In Germany a similar attempt by publishers including Axel Springer was abandoned because the publishers realised they could not compete against Google’s market power. If the German publishers are correct then the Spanish publishing industry is in for a bruising lesson.

Critics of the new Spanish copyright law have slammed the law as ill-conceived.

The development is the latest in a series of skirmishes between the search giant and European legislators. In recent weeks MEPs voted in favour of splitting Google’s search operation from its commercial business in what they believe to be a move that will create a more level playing field for internet search in Europe.

In a post on the Google Europe blog the head of Google News Richard Gingras said that Google News was “a service that hundreds of millions of users love and trust, including many here in Spain.

“It’s free to use and includes everything from the world’s biggest newspapers to small, local publications and bloggers. Publishers can choose whether or not they want their articles to appear in Google News — and the vast majority choose to be included for very good reason. 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.”

Helping the news industry

Google explained that Google News was born in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks when one of its engineers Krishna Bharat realised that results for the query “World Trade Center” yielded no news results about the terrorist attacks because every news site at that point in 2001 was a silo.

“That’s how Google News was born and today the service is available in more than 70 international editions, covering 35 languages,” Gingras said.

“For centuries publishers were limited in how widely they could distribute the printed page. The internet changed all that – creating tremendous opportunities but also real challenges for publishers as competition both for readers’ attention and for advertising Euros increased. We’re committed to helping the news industry meet that challenge and look forward to continuing to work with our thousands of partners globally, as well as in Spain, to help them increase their online readership and revenues.”

News stand in Spain image via Shutterstock


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years