So-called Google Tax comes into force

The reform of the intellectual property laws, nicknamed the ‘Google Tax’ by the Government, came into effect today, Spain becoming the first country in the world to make payment for linking to Spanish news sites, amongst others, non-optional.

The new law, which saw the closure of Google News Spain, has been much criticised throughout the world, even by the very same publishers who campaigned vigorously for its introduction. Although it has been dubbed the ‘Google Tax’, it affects many other organisations.

News aggregators, such as Google News, Yahoo, Bing etc, or websites who provide headlines or snippets and/or a link to the originating Spanish news or other sites where copyrighted material may be hosted, are required to pay a canon or tax for the privilege.

Unlike in other countries, the originating publisher of the news or other items cannot waive the payment. In addition, there has reportedly been no information made available relating to how and when the new law applies, the amount of the tax, how the tax is paid, who benefits from the tax.

The new law also apparently applies to universities and other educational facilities using extracts or linking to potentially copyrighted scientific or academic material. Or does it? No-one seems to know.

One large food site providing links to Spanish cookery/food supply sites has already reportedly stopped publication due to the perils of continuing. One of the hazards currently being discussed is that a site owner providing a link to another Spanish site does not necessarily know if the material being linked to is actually copyrighted or not.

Presumably, if one were to post a piece saying, for example, ‘Take a look at this article on the history of Flamenco in El Pais’ and you actually include a link to that article in El Pais, you could well be in trouble. Or not. As stated earlier, no-one seems to know how the new law will work in practice, many just waiting for a test case.

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