Google returns to Spain after 7 years as royal decree amends copyright law

By L. Carol Christopher


Pleasant Hill, California, USA


A royal decree transposing the EU Copyright Directive, which includes Article 15 or the “neighbouring right,” will lead to the return of Google News in Spain early next year. Several Spanish news executives and INMA members we contacted said they are either in negotiations with Google and/or Facebook, or had concluded them. 

In a November 1 blog post, Sulina Connal, Google’s director of news and publishing partnerships, described that directive as having “two important guiding principles:”

  1. “People and platforms can continue to link to — and include — very short extracts of publishers’ content.”
  2. The law creates new rights for news publishers when “extended previews” of their work are used online. 

The new Spanish law comes following a deadline set in the EU’s directive, which “must be adopted by all member states, [and] requires platforms such as Google, Facebook, and others to share revenue with publishers,” while removing the collective fee mandated under the previous law, and allowing them to reach individual or group agreements with publishers, Reuters reported.

The new copyright law removes the fee mandated under the previous law, allowing news publishers and Big Tech companies to reach individual or group agreements.
The new copyright law removes the fee mandated under the previous law, allowing news publishers and Big Tech companies to reach individual or group agreements.

“Spain’s Culture Ministry said the new law brought national copyright legislation into step with the digital environment and would help artists and creators to receive fair remuneration for their work,” according to Reuters.

Google and Spain — a brief history

In 2014, Google shut down Google News, leaving the Spanish citizenry without the familiar links to news stories and news publishers with fewer options for sharing digital content. It departed following a remuneration dispute embedded in “local legislation” — a Spanish law requiring companies like Google to pay publishers for using the links, or snippets, that describe the contents of a story, as Bloomberg described it. 

Spain’s amended law allows publishing entities to negotiate directly with Big Tech over remuneration rather than sharing it through a collective licensing fee, as required under the previous law. Under that law, “aggregator services” — such as Google — that posted links and excerpts of news articles were required to pay a fee to the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies, or Asociación de Editores de Diarios Españoles (AEDE), an organisation that lobbied on behalf of the Spanish newspaper industry and later became the Asociación de Medios de Información (AMI), which now represents about 80, mostly traditional, news media organisations, according to CNET. 

According to one Spanish editor INMA spoke with, most news organisations were unhappy with the old law because not only were the payouts much smaller than those being negotiated under the new law, but, importantly, publishers did not have the right to decline the use of their content. They welcome the change the new law represents, they told INMA.

What to expect

In the coming months, Google expects to continue “working with publishers to reach agreements which cover their rights under the new law,” Fuencisia Clemares, head of Google Iberia, said in a November 3 blog post. 

Google shut down Google News in 2014 due to nationwide legislation that has now been updated.
Google shut down Google News in 2014 due to nationwide legislation that has now been updated.

“The big difference from Google’s point of view,” wrote The Verge, “is that it no longer has to pay a fee to Spain’s entire media industry and can instead negotiate fees from individual publishers. Some may want to charge Google for sharing stories in Google News, and Google can pay them or exclude them, depending on its preference. Other outlets will no doubt waive these fees, judging that the traffic offered by Google News outweighs any lost advertising revenue.”

Alongside the new agreements, Clemares said, Google “will work towards bringing Google News Showcase to Spain, a licensing programme and new product experience which pays publishers to curate content for story panels across Google News and Discover.” More than 1,000 publications have signed up for Google News Showcase around the world, the company reported, and “more than half of those are in Europe, including in Italy, Czechia, Ireland, and Germany.”


With the new law, both Google and Spanish publishers win, the Spanish editor told INMA: “The situation is much, much, much better. We know how much money we will get from them for the next two years, and each editor knows how much they will be paid for the next two years.” 

Google calculates the payments based on factors such as unique users, number of journalists, content produced per month, and KPIs, the editor told us. But Google also maintains the right to decide which news outlets will be included and which ones will be excluded, they explained. And the editor does not expect to see huge gains in audience: “I don’t think it will be big, but we will wait and see.” 

Arsenio Escolar, chairman of another of Spain’s publishers’ associations, CLABE, representing around 1,000 “digital-native” news outlets, said he was pleased with the new legislation, the Reuters report said: “We are satisfied because media publishers have regained the reins of the management of our rights, hijacked a few years ago by a law that we at CLABE have always considered unjust and harmful.”

But then again, as The Verge said reflectively, “Such agreements will no doubt continue to be passed and then superseded as the news industry changes and evolves.”

About L. Carol Christopher

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