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Spain to force search engines to pay to display some content

People surf the web during the annual "Campus Party" Internet users gathering in Valencia July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Heino Kalis
People surf the web during the annual "Campus Party" Internet users gathering in Valencia July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Heino Kalis

By Emma Pinedo

MADRID (Reuters) - News media companies in Spain will be able to charge search engines such as Google for displaying copyrighted content under a new law proposed by the Spanish government on Friday.

The measure echoes similar drives around Europe. Publishers in Portugal, France, Belgium and Germany have pushed for compensation in some form or another for links, snippets, headlines and lead paragraphs that appear in news search engines and aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo news.

The search engines draw revenue from advertising placed near news content and media companies have fought for a share of it.

The new rule was introduced in the draft of an intellectual property law that the center-right People's Party government will present to parliament for approval, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a weekly news conference.

Under the proposed changes, the search engines would not have to seek permission to publish brief fragments but would have to pay "an equitable remuneration for the use".

The government did not say how it would be determined which fragments must be paid for and how amounts would be calculated. This has been a matter of fierce debate elsewhere in Europe.

A spokeswoman for Google in Spain said the company could not comment because it had not yet seen the exact wording of the intellectual property reform bill.

"LONG-STANDING DEMAND"

The Association of Spanish Newspaper Editors, known by its Spanish-language acronym AEDE, applauded the proposal.

"We are very satisfied with the intellectual property law, which recognizes a long-standing demand from news editors," said Irene Lanzaco, deputy director of the association.

Spanish media have been hit hard by a prolonged economic recession as advertising spending has plunged. Dozens of newspapers and other media have shut down and 9,500 journalists have been laid off in the last four years.

European countries have taken different approaches to the issue of news content on search engines.

A year ago Google agreed to pay 60 million euros into a special fund to help French media develop their presence on the Internet, but search engines will not pay publishers in France for displaying content.

Germany passed a new copyright law last March that allows media there to charge search engines for using their content, but the original bill was watered down and links and small excerpts of text were exempted.

Spain's proposed reform on search engines and content is just one element in a major overhaul of intellectual property rules that the government has been working on since last year.

Internet piracy is widespread in Spain, which is considered to be one of Europe's worst offenders for illegal downloading of music, films and games.

The draft bill approved by the cabinet on Friday envisages speedier processes to shut down piracy sites and establishes sanctions for sites that redirect users to illegal downloading sites, advertisers on piracy websites and companies that process payments to piracy sites.

(Additional reporting and writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Rodrigo de Miguel and Gareth Jones)

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