An inside look at how Spain’s copyright law targets Google and other news aggregators

News aggregation services, particularly Google News, appear to be under attack in several European countries. Belgium, Germany, and most recently Spain have tried to limit Google’s ability to aggregate news from news media sources in those countries, mainly by requiring Google to pay royalties to the publications that appear on Google News’ feed. Most U.S. news reports on these developments have been fairly basic, setting up a “Europe versus Google” conflict without giving much detail.

To get a better idea of what is going on, I recently communicated with Professor Miquel Peguera, an Internet law expert at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona. He writes a blog on ISP Law, co-edits the Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and E-Commerce Law, and has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University. He graciously shared some helpful observations about the new Spanish law.

Mark Sableman: Professor, we’ve all heard that Google actually shut down its Spanish version of Google News because of this law. That sounds pretty drastic. What did the law actually say?

Miquel Peguera: The provision is Art. 32(2) of a major copyright revision law. It's available here (in Spanish). It refers to providers of aggregation services, and it covers only the publishing of non-significant fragments (typically snippets). It does not establish liability, but a levy system. You don't need authorization, but you need to pay a levy, compulsorily handled by a collective society. However, this levy needs further regulatory development.

Sableman: Did the law really target just Google News?

Peguera: Yes, it appears that the main purpose of the law was to make Google News pay for its aggregation of Spanish news sources. Now that Google News has closed down its services, it is possible that this provision will never be enforced, or even deleted from the law. And we’re not sure if the regulations needed to support it will finally be developed.

Read the full interview at JD Supra.