Copyfail #6: The “Google tax”- not a tax and Google doesn’t pay

By EDRi · June 30, 2016

This article is the sixth in the series presenting Copyfails.

The EU is reforming its copyright rules. We want to introduce you to the main failures of the current copyright system, with suggestions on how to fix them. You can find all the Copyfails here.

How has it failed?

Germany and Spain introduced in their legislation what some people call a “Google tax”. The idea came from the publishers. They claimed the right to get an additional copyright, “ancillary copyright”, on any news that are published online. The idea of this “tax” (that is actually not a tax) was to charge the online news sites who publish news snippets, short extracts of news, such as Google News. Even if the main target of publishers was Google News, the laws affect other similar services, for example meneame in Spain. Ultimately it could even undermine the whole concept of links to information.

The result of this “Google tax” was a complete failure: Google decided to close Google News in Spain, while in Germany everyone except Google ended up paying the “tax”. Now, even after these clear failures, the European Commission (EC) is determined to make this error a European one; it’s considering implementing the ancillary copyright everywhere in the European Union (EU) – and on an even bigger scale than in Spain and Germany.


Why is this important?

Sharing information has never been easier since the creation of the internet. Individual citizens, associations, companies, institutions and governments profit from it: anyone is a publisher or a reader, depending on the context.

Adding another layer of complexity in the EU’s copyright rules is guaranteed to have unforeseen consequences, in addition to what we’ve already seen in Spain and Germany. The proposals for “Google tax” could restrict authors rights, and seriously undermine access to copyright-free public domain works that are for now freely available for everyone. Many citizens are already aware of these risks; most of the nearly three thousand responses to the public consultation on ancillary copyright showed a strong opposition to this measure.

How to fix it?


The “Google tax” that is not a Google tax (05.11.2014)

2819 responses collected with two key messages on how to #FixCopyright: NO to ancillary copyright – YES to freedom of panorama (17.06.2016)

The European Commission’s public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain: A response by the European Copyright Society (June 2016)

A neighbouring right for press publishers – the wrong solution to a serious problem (13.06.2016)

Beware: The “neighbouring right for publishers” is an ancillary copyright on steroids! – To the potential consequences of a general neighbouring right for publishers (15.06.