Thanks to the majority held by the ruling Popular Party, Spain’s Congress voted on Thursday to approve a reform to the Intellectual Property Law, a package which included the introduction of charges for the online use of fragments of information, opinion and entertainment grouped together, for example, on search engines.
Under the so-called 'Google tax', money is paid to the publications and news outlets which produced the stories, texts from which are typically used to give context to the links that result from an online search.
According to the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post, the new legislation also allows for tougher penalties, including fines of up to €600,000 ($756,000), against the owners of websites containing links to illegal pirate downloads.
The changes are set to be introduced on January 1st, 2015.
The representative of Google in Spain reacted immediately to the decision by Congress to pass the government’s reform. "We are disappointed with the new law because we think that services like Google News help publishers to bring traffic to their websites. Looking forward, we will continue to work with Spanish publishers to help them increase their income while we consider our options in light of this new regulation," the company said in a statement.
Opposition parties criticized the government for not living up to its promise of reaching a cross-bench agreement on the reform, while the PP said that the legislation achieved its main goal: to protect creators of cultural material on the internet.
The congressional spokesman for the centrist UPyD party, Carlos Martínez Gorriarán, said the reform was "one of worst laws of this legislature" and clearly designed to favour Spain’s biggest media companies.
The news that Spain planned to introduce a 'google tax' comes a day after the European Union's incoming Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger touted that plans to introduce similar charges across Europe within 12 months.
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"If Google takes intellectual property from the EU and makes use of it, the EU can protect this property and demand that Google pay for it," Oettinger told German business newspaper Handelsblatt."
Germany introduced such a scheme in 2013, a move which saw Google remove copyrighted material from media outlets represented by media industry body VG Media. However, the industry group have now backtracked by granting Google a free licence to continue to displaying that content.