US giant Google today went ahead with a vow to shut down its popular online news service Google News in Spain in protest at a new law which would make it pay for content. "We're incredibly sad to announce that, due to recent changes in Spanish law, we have removed Spanish publishers from Google News and closed Google News in Spain," read a message on the company's Spanish Google News page which is normally full of aggregated news content.
"This 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," it added in the message published in English and Spanish. "As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach was not sustainable." Google announced on December 10 that it would close Google News in Spain because of a new Spanish intellectual-property law that takes effect in January that requires news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.
The law has been dubbed the "Google tax" in Spain but it would also apply to other big web companies with pages that reproduce and link to news content, such as Yahoo. Google is facing pressure from publishers in several European countries, who accuse the online search titan of taking advantage of its dominant position in the market and are demanding payment for use of their content but this is the first time it has shut Google News.
The Association of Spanish Newspaper Editors, known by its Spanish-language acronym AEDE, which called for the law, now fears a huge drop in Internet traffic to its members' sites and has appealed for Spanish and European authorities to find a solution.
In October a legal battle with German publishers forced Google to remove from its search results news snippets drawn from news sites. One of those companies, Axel Springer, capitulated to Google weeks later, letting it post snippets for free. It said it could not resist Google's dominance in online news.