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Google move hits Spain news outlets

The decision to close Google News in Spain because of a law requiring aggregators to pay publishers for linking content will reverberate around the world, the company said.

The search giant said it will block reports from Spanish publishers from its Google News international editions, which number more than 70.

That's in addition to the Spain shutdown on December 16, several weeks before a new intellectual property law takes effect on January 1.

It means people in Latin America, where Spanish news organisations have sought to boost audiences, will not see their articles via Google News.

Also set to disappear are reports in English from Spanish publishers such as the leading El Pais newspaper.

Spain's AEDE association, which represents large news publishers, lobbied for the law nicknamed the Google Tax. It declined comment on the Google decision, which is the first shutdown since Google News debuted as an experimental project in 2002.

Richard Gingras, head of Google News, said the decision was made "with real sadness" because it is "a service that hundreds of millions of users love and trust, including many here in Spain".

"This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not," he wrote in a blog.

"As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable."

The law did not specify how much publishers would have to be paid by Google, but the company said Spain's law is much stricter than similar legislation enacted elsewhere.

Google News does not generate revenue or show adverts. It has long-irked newspaper publishers and other content providers who contend the service tramples on copyrights by creating a digital kiosk of headlines and story snippets gathered from other websites.

Most venting has been limited to criticism likening Google to a freeloader, but there have been attempts to force the company to change its ways through the courts.

Google maintains it obeys all copyright laws while sending more people to websites highlighted in its News services.

The company also allows publishers to prevent material from being displayed in Google News, an option few websites choose because the service is an important traffic source to sell adverts.

Alejandro Tourino, a Madrid-based lawyer who specialises in media issues, said Spanish news publishers may "have shot themselves out of the market". "Time will tell," he said.

After Germany revised copyright laws last year in a way that allowed, but did not force, Google News to make royalty payments, Google required publishers to give consent for summarising content and most did.

Google last year agreed to help French news organisations increase online advertising revenue and fund digital publishing innovations to settle a dispute over whether it should pay for news content in its search results.

The firm also had to respond to a ruling this year from Europe's highest court that people have a right to scrub unflattering or outdated information from Google's search engine. That case started in Spain.

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