Newspaper Spain

MADRID—Spain’s government said Monday there are no ongoing talks to avoid a planned shutdown tomorrow of the Spanish version of Google Inc.’s news service, even as local media frets over the effect of a potential loss of Internet traffic.

Google last week announced it would close Google News Spain and remove Spanish publishers from Google News from Tuesday, December 16, just before a new law requiring publishers to charge the company for displaying their content comes into effect January 1.

A Google Spain spokeswoman said there is no specific time for the shutdown.

A spokeswoman for Spain’s Culture Ministry, which has been leading talks with Google over the matter, said the last contact with Google was just hours before the official announcement last Thursday, when a representative for the Spanish unit of the U.S. giant met with ministry officials to notify them about the impending shutdown.

Spanish media have reacted with dismay at Google’s move. But they’ve stopped short of calling the government to step back and agree to Google’s demand to kill the law. Even if it wanted to, the government couldn’t negate the law, since there’s no time to have it changed by parliament—a process that often takes weeks if not months. Whatever happens will have to wait until next year.

In a statement released last week, The Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) conceded that Google’s response would be painful for members but vowed to stay the course and ensure that content providers are fairly compensated for the material shown in Google News and other aggregators.

“Given Google’s dominant position, AEDE is requesting that Spanish and EU authorities, as well as anti-trust authorities, intervene to protect the rights of citizens and companies, ” AEDE said.

Spain’s government and AEDE anticipate some measure of support from Brussels, and use this as a way to put pressure on Google to sit down with publishers, restart Google News after the shutdown and discuss compensation for content use.

One of these ideas is a reform to existing copyright laws specifically targeting the tech company, in what amounts to an EU-wide “Google tax” along the lines of the Spanish move that led to the closure of Google News in Spain.

The Spanish law requires Spanish publishers to charge services such as Google News for showing excerpts or snippets from their publications. Crucially, the law explicitly bans media providers from waiving this right—which means that agreements between Google and separate media outlets in exchange for staying in Google News –the end result of similar disputes in other countries –are out of the question.

Spanish officials say the law simply requires Google to provide fair compensation for content creators. The law itself doesn’t establish how much Google or other aggregators should pay to media organizations. This was slated to be decided in coming months in a separate set of rules that the government intended to craft through consultation with aggregators and media representatives.

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