Spain’s “Google tax” gets green light with sole support of Popular Party

Intellectual property law will see bigger fines in an attempt to curb rampant online piracy

Tommaso Koch
Online newspapers may benefit from the new intellectual property law.
Online newspapers may benefit from the new intellectual property law.CRISTOBAL MANUEL

Spain’s new Intellectual Property Law (LPI) got congressional approval on Thursday and will go into effect in January 2015.

But the bill only passed thanks to the support of the ruling Popular Party (172 votes), while the opposition (144 against, three abstentions) denounced the legislation as “a failed opportunity” and “a disaster.”

The government has admitted that this is a partial reform and that deeper changes will follow a year from now, after the European Union issues a new directive on intellectual copyright.

More information
Cabinet approves “Google tax” on use of copyrighted material
US slammed Zapatero for not passing "Sinde" anti-piracy law
US takes Spain off piracy blacklist

But the new legislation does introduce some significant changes, such as the so-called “Google tax,” which will force websites known as aggregators — those that reproduce fragments of syndicated news stories, photographs or other copyrighted material for information or entertainment purposes — to compensate the original publishers.

While this fee does not affect Google’s search engine, the name derives from its Google News service, which aggregates information in this manner. The company has already expressed “disappointment” over the law in a press release.

Criticism is also coming in from online associations and even Spain’s National Markets and Competitiveness Commission, all of whom note that the wording of the law is vague: it talks about “equitable compensation” for publishing “non-significant fragments of content through periodical publications or periodically updated websites that aim to inform, create public opinion or entertain.”

It is not clear which websites are affected by the new regulations, although social networks such as Facebook or Twitter are not being targeted

Citizens are left to wonder what constitutes “a non-significant fragment of content” and what the “equitable compensation” actually amounts to. It is also not completely clear what websites, beyond news aggregators, are affected by the new regulations, although it seems that social networks such as Facebook or Twitter are not being targeted.

But the major new element introduced by the law is the sanctions of up to €600,000 for websites that link to other sites offering pirated content. The issue of online piracy has been a major headache for the Spanish government since the days of the previous Socialist administration, which attempted to tackle it with the much-maligned Sinde Law.

The new legislation also introduces greater transparency into intellectual property management groups following the corruption scandal that rocked Spain’s main copyright industry association SGAE in 2011, and determines how much copyrighted material may be quoted for research purposes in the academic world.

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