CyberTech Rambler

December 31, 2014

D-day tomorrow for Spanish Publishers

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:52 pm

Since Google shut down its Spanish News Services, a few news websites had been sizing up its implication. In particular, behind the headlines, what will Google do, or more importantly, not do.

As I do not speak Spanish, I do not know what the law actually says. Initially, there were news article suggesting that even the “general search index” cannot show news snippet without payment. Plausible. A more sensible view is only search index specializing on news, i.e. news site, is affected. Google’s original blogpost announcing the closure did not talk about the general search index, lending weight to the general search index not affected. However, it could simply be a negotiating tactics or to signal that they are willing to negotiate.

After the shutdown, the net is full with news that you can still get the articles from the General Search Site and in particular, on the last day of 2014, I can still see the Spanish equivalent of “News” search on the General Search Site. Whether this will stay on after the law goes into effect, we have to wait and see.

So, tomorrow is D-day, as this is the reported date that the new law will take effect. I fully expects Google to respect the law and have no reason to think they will not. Its lawyers would had looked into the law with a fine-tooth comb, spelling out to it what it and cannot do. However, I have to warn that it is not necessarily reflected in what Google does in the sense that it can choose to shut down/disable more things than the law requires. I will say it will not be wise for Google to do this, but do appreciate that it needs to save some bargaining chips.

Immediately after the closure of Google News, statistics companies says that external traffic to Spanish News Site drops. That is only to be expected. In fact, all parties expected this. The question is what is the new equilibrium after the effect of this initial drop fades as users find new ways to access Spanish news. Note that unlike other attempts at similar law where publishers can opt out by giving Google free access, this Spanish law does not allow opt out, forcing every publishers in Spain on to the same boat. This introduces a different type of dynamics. It is possible that they will be satisfied, or be forced to live with, this new equilibrium.

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December 15, 2014

Beware what you asked for

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:03 pm

TheRegister is running a news story saying that Spanish News Publishers Association (AEDE) scored an own goal with Google withdrawing Google News and will purge all index record for news items originating from Spain.

The Spanish Report has a set of good articles about Google’s move. First thing first, one got to understand the law involved. This article shows how the law evolves the way it did. The conclusion is, with the new Intellectual Property Law coming into effect in the new year, the News Publishers basically got their cake: Any use of news article or photograph, however insignificant, requires payment. Only indexing news articles for the purpose of providing non-commercial search do not requires prior permission and payment. Finally, to counter Google getting any news publisher to agree to permit Google to do the two things for free, which Google did rather successfully in Germany after similar law was passed, no news publisher is permitted to opt out.

After getting their cake signed, sealed and delivered, they expect Google to come back and negotiate payment for Google News and for search indexing. They deem, not unreasonably, that it is only a remote chance that Google will decide to abandon Spanish News completely. They hope, after considering the scenario, Google will decide it has less to lose by coming back to the negotiation table and sign a deal that it has been fighting very hard to not sign it.

Unfortunately, Google obviously believe that it is better business decision for it to stick to its gun and ceases News gathering in Spain. I believe it is the right decision for Google as a company. AEDE will not be surprised because it should already seen the writing on the walls when Google did not come running.

What this means is, having got their cake, AEDE found it hard to swallow.

Google is throwing down the gauntlet. It opined that Spanish News Publishers will find they lose more than they gain with Google withdrawing its News Service. Perhaps most importantly for Google, it cannot back down for the fear of copycat legislation. It needs to send a message: News publishers living in countries smaller than Spain take note, I won’t pay.

Google is more or less proven right. In doing so, it not only AEDE on the wrong foot, it turned the table around. The latter finds that it has to activate its backup plan, i.e. appealing to Spanish Government to stop Google from leaving them behind.

Will it works? As far as stopping Google from leaving them _completely_, possibly. Especially if Spanish Government choose to intervene. It’s statement, as carried at the end of this article, says that it believe the purpose of law establishes the basis for negotiation between interested party, and there are other outlets for news besides Google. The first part says that it is not my problem and it is up to the players to come to a agreement/compromise. The subtext of the second part is I am not taking side in this debate. This is also known as a box-standard government response. I, however, think the Spanish Government will intervene. It will be difficult to enact a law saying Google cannot withdraw.  What the Spanish Government will opt to, is to mediate between the two parties. The irony here is AEDE finally got the meeting it wants, the only different here is advantage Google, not advantage AEDE.

I do really want to see what compromise the mediator can come up with. The law is so tightly written that there is little room to maneuver. It will take a rather long time, after assuming the law that modify this one is fast track, to loosen this law. Wordsmiths, a.k.a. lawyers, will be looking at what they can do with the remuneration package for publisher.

I believe Google will return to the Spanish News scene. Only thing is, I cannot tell you when.

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