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Prophetic search engine legislation proposed in Spain

A passing blip of a story that could entail drastic changes in the way internet marketing and search engine results are sequenced and itemized: Spain has just proposed a new law that allows news media companies to charge search engines for displaying copyrighted content.

Search engines like Google make their money from the advertisements that juxtapose news content, but media companies have long pined for a share of that revenue. Basically, the proposed law - echoing similar pushes by media outlets in France and Germany - would make it a standard that search engines will not have to get permission to publish links, headlines, ledes, and other excerpts of news stories, but will have to pay "an equitable remuneration" for them. The problems of how payments will be measured, not to mention which excerpts must be paid for, have not been answered yet.

Considering that Spain has been one of the countries hit hardest by the prolonged economic (not-actually-a-)recession, advertising dollars have been in short supply, and nearly 10,000 Spanish journalists have been laid off in the last four years. The Spanish government has been seeking an extensive re-vamping of intellectual property rules (Spain has one of the largest internet piracy rates in the world).

What this means for North American search engines? Well, nothing...yet. But considering that looking to Europe is often a good barometer for where the tides can turn in North America - or at least in Canada, what with our strong ties to the EU - we may see similar legislation passed, or at least proposed, within the next decade. For better or worse, Canadian intellectual property laws still exist in something of a "grey zone"; this may yet take us out of that. For better or worse.

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