Spain Greenlights Measure for Newspapers to Charge Search Engines for Content Use


The proposed law must still wind its way through parliament amidst vehement protests from other digital content rights' owners.

MADRID – News media in Spain will be able to charge search engines like Google and Yahoo under a new law proposed by the Spanish cabinet Friday and set for a controversial journey through the parliament in the next few months.

The proposed Intellectual Property Law is in keeping with other initiatives in Europe by looking to compensate publishers for “insignificant fragments” of content like headlines, briefs or first paragraphs.

The Spanish Association of Daily Newspapers applauded the measure, calling it a “historic demand.”

“We are satisfied with the government’s sensitivity with this measure, which would pave the way for the rest of Europe, and which strengthens the role of the press as a means of communication in a democratic society,” the association said in a statement. “We are not seeking subsidies, but rather a juridical framework that recognizes the value of our content against abuses.”

STORY: Spain's Proposed Intellectual Property Law Finds Little Support 

The publishers will have five months to reach an agreement with the search engines for a formula of compensation. If they cannot, the first section Intellectual Property committee will do so.

Although the government called the greenlit measure “pioneer,” Germany passed the so-called Google Law in 2013, which requires the company and other engines to negotiate to use licensed content.

“With the approval of the proposal to reform the Intellectual Property Law, the government has made the first necessary step to end the 'vampirization' of news content that has so damaged newspapers,” the Spanish daily El Mundo wrote in an editorial Saturday.

Even so, Spanish film and television content creators were up in arms that the government had not heeded serious complaints from the sector and the State Advisory Counsel about the ineffectual measures proposed to stem piracy in Spain.

There are three controversial sections to the bill: private copy, piracy and the system of collective rights management.

Spain was forced to remove its so-called digital canon -- which generated a reported €90 million -- when European and Spanish courts ruled it illegal and indiscriminate.

The government replaced it with €5 million earmarked in the General Budget for compensating rights holders. Intellectual Property entities say the government has determined the actual figure should be €18 million.

Additionally, the proposed law does not see links as a violation of property, nor does it chase after those who facilitate the links.

According to experts in the sector, the vague wording of the bill along with the fact that the bill turns a blind eye to the infractions caused by links and web pages makes it useless.

According to GFK Digital Consumption in Spain Report, piracy stole an estimated €15.2 billion in 2012.