Spanish newspapers beg for help as Google News closure looms

Having lobbied hard for a Spanish law that forces Google to pay royalties for using snippets of articles in its News service, and having since seen the company say it would shut down Google News in Spain because it doesn’t make money off it anyway, Spain’s publishers are now trying to stop that closure.

The Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) said in a statement late last week that “the closure of Google News…is not equivalent to the closing of another service given its dominant position in the market and will undoubtedly have a negative impact on Spanish citizens and businesses.”

AEDE said it therefore “requires the intervention of the Spanish and EU authorities, and of competition authorities to effectively protect the rights of citizens and businesses.”

Google News is due to close its Spanish doors on Tuesday. The intellectual property law (again, fought for by AEDE) is too inflexible for the publishers to be able to grant Google free use of text snippets and image thumbnails — as happened in Germany.

There’s no questioning the fact that Google is, as the statement also notes, “the true gateway to the internet” in Europe, where it has more than a 90 percent share of the search market. As the company’s long-running battle with EU antitrust authorities shows, Google can and sometimes does abuse this position to favor its own services over those of others.

But this copyright dispute, which has played out in several European arenas, has little to do with competition. Google quite reasonably doesn’t think it’s fair to have to pay publishers to send traffic their way — traffic that the publishers then converts into advertising revenue.

The publishers wanted money for nothing. They didn’t get it. Google has the right to shut down its services. The publishers do now face a “negative impact,” but it’s entirely of their own making. It’s just a pity that this negative impact will also hit Spanish citizens.