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Spanish newspapers blink first in Google News row

It’s a case of “can’t live with or without you” for Spain’s newspaper industry, as Google prepares to shut down Google News in a row over copyright fees.

Spanish newspapers successfully lobbied their government for a change in the law that would require Google to pay fees for including headlines and snippets of their news stories in its search results.

The argument goes that if Google is selling advertising around copyright material – even if only a very small part of that copyright material is visible – then the copyright owner ought to get paid.

As a result, the Spanish government passed new legislation that would require Google to pay if it wants to feature stories from the country’s newspapers in Google News.

Google’s response has been to shut down Google News in Spain, prompting something of a climb-down from the newspaper industry, which is now seeking more help from the government – this time to force Google to reverse its decision.

[pullQuote position=”right”]Google News is a news-only search index and uses a search algorithm with a heavy bias towards new content.[/pullQuote]

Google News is Google’s news-only search index, restricted to pages from bona fide news sources. It uses a search algorithm with a heavy bias towards new content. It is thought that a significant share of the traffic most newspaper sites get from search engines comes from Google News.  Publishers also have the option of having their content removed from the index.

But while all that might make the decision by Spain’s newspapers seem self-defeating, they are not alone. There have been similar rumblings in other European countries and, closer to home, media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been a regular critic of Google and other search engines, famously describing them as “content kleptomaniacs”.

Murdoch has taken a number of his publications behind a paywall, charging readers for access to his online content. It remains to be seen whether or not paywalls will provide the answer to the newspaper industry’s declining revenues.

One thing that appears certain is that Google won’t be paying fees to send traffic from its search results to the websites of Spain’s newspapers. The company said in a statement that Google News would be taken down in Spain on December 16th, which will be overnight tonight in Australia and New Zealand.

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