Alphabet said it would talk to Spanish publishers to return Google News

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Google’s Alphabet is negotiating individual licensing deals with a split Spanish news industry that could allow the US tech giant’s news service to resume in the country, three sources close to the issue told Reuters.

Google News, which refers to third-party content closed in Spain at the end of 2014 in response to legislation, which means that it must pay a mandatory collective licensing fee to republish headlines or news clippings.

Now the thorny issue is back on the table as Spain prepares for 2019. European Union Copyright Directive by June. While this requires Google,, Facebookand others, to share revenue with publishers, the government may allow companies to negotiate individual deals with content providers.

The Spanish Ministry of Culture said the government was working on a bill, but declined to give further details.

Google News will only return to Spain if publishers are allowed to sign individual agreements under a new law, a Google Spain spokeswoman said, adding that a paid license should not be mandatory.

Facebook faced a backlash from publishers and politicians last week after blocking people in Australia from accessing and sharing news, escalating a dispute with the government there over a planned law that would require it to share revenue with content providers.

However, EU rules do not force online platforms to pay for links published on their news site by publishers, the main complaint for Facebook in Australia, so their implementation could pave the way for a series of deals.

“Google is in talks with Spanish editors about the possibility of participating in the Google News Showcase program,” said a source familiar with the process, citing the proposed new name for the service.

Two other sources said some preliminary agreements had already been reached, pending details on the new legislation.

The status quo

Google recently agreed to pay $ 76 million (approximately Rs. 550 crores) to a group of 121 French news publishers, angering many other local retailers who found the deal unfair and non-transparent.

Some Spanish publishers, represented by the media association AMI, such as the owner of El Mundo Unidad Editorial, support the maintenance of the current system, which entitles publishers to charge royalties through collective management.

AMI CEO Ramon Alonso said the model allows for transparent and fair negotiations with Google and others and prevents the exclusion of some publishers.

But others, including CLABE, which represents 162 contributors to about a thousand news outlets, including leading digital brands such as El Espanol or, say they can make a better deal on their own and should have the freedom to choose.

“We are trying to ensure that these agreements benefit as many companies in the sector as possible,” said Juan Zafra, secretary general of CLABE.

The Independent Regional Press Association (AIE), a founding member of AMI, said in a letter published in all its outlets on Monday that it had been “severely damaged” by the existing model, which did not generate revenue and made Spain “global digital exception”.

Meanwhile, Microsoft and European media groups on Monday called on EU regulators to require online platforms to seek arbitration over disagreements over how to share revenue with news publishers.
© Thomson Reuters 2021

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