Cheap trick shall make us think the Spanish link tax works

Am 3. Juli 2017 - 22:54 Uhr von Tom Hirche

The Spanish link tax is indeed no success story. All it "achieved" so far is the permanent shutdown of Google News Spain which led to a large drop in publishers' site views while not accumulating a single euro. Although this situation will change with the just closed deal, it first and foremost tries to shamelessly fool us into thinking that the link tax is actually working.

Both Germany and Spain have introduced their ancillary copyrights for press publishers but with slightly different mechanisms. Under the Spanish version news aggregators have to pay levies when they link to articles by displaying news snippets in search results. Different from Germany, the royalty claims are inalienable, i.e. cannot be waived in Spain. So the idea is: aggregators must pay when they bring a user to a news publisher's website.

Very unsurprisingly, it did not go as planned. Since the 1st January 2015, when the law came into force against all protests and warnings, it did not generate any income for the publishers (of which not everyone is pro link tax). Google News Spain did close its doors a few days before and no other news aggregator has concluded a deal with the Spanish copyright collecting society called Reproduction Rights Centre (CEDRO).

At least this was the situation until last Tuesday, when CEDRO announced that it has reached an agreement with the German news aggregator Upday. Good for the publishers you think? Well, you could most certainly say so! Upday is owned by the German publishing conglomerate Axel Springer SE which is the intellectual father of the ancillary copyright for press publishers in Germany and one of its strongest advocates not only on a national but also on EU level. This means that effectively not a single euro will be generated because the company that pays the fee is the same that benefits from the payment. It is a classical "left pocket, right pocket" transaction.

So what is the reason for the agreement? CEDRO, the Axel Springer SE and other supporters of a link tax will use this deal as (pseudo) precedence to make everyone believe the Spanish link tax has not failed and aggregators are actually willing to pay while Google is abusing its market power. But the whole agreement is nothing more than a cheap trick that is easy to expose. An ancillary copyright for press publishers does not work in practice and never will.

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