New tariff will kill Spanish aggregators  09/02/2017 by Tom Hirche

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Within the last couple of months, it has been very quiet about the Spanish link tax which aims to charge content aggregators a fee if they publish snippets of a news article. As a consequence, after this law was passed, Google News Spain, the main target of this measure, was shut down in 2014. But now the Spanish Reproduction Rights Centre (CEDRO) has initiated a new round of negotiations with several affected online services. The figures they ask for are shocking.

For each "active user", CEDRO wants to charge about five cents per day, according to their tariff (p. 24)! An active user is defined as someone "who uses the service at least once a day, regardless of the number of times the service is accessed every day." One does not have to be very good at math to understand with what tremendous numbers aggregators are faced with.

Daniel Seijo, CEO of the Spanish social news website Menéame, explained that the platform had an average of 139.000 unique users per day in 2016. "If we applied the CEDRO-rate, we would have to pay more than 7,000 euros a day, that would be 2.56 million euros a year. We had a turnover of 125,000 euros. We would have to close", Seijo said. This clearly shows how disproportionate the tariff is and how valuable the services by the aggregators to the publishers actually are.

Furthermore, it remains highly unclear how the fee had been calculated. Why does it refer to active users? Why not per month instead of per day? Why five cents? A CEDRO spokesperson said that "we have calculated [the fee] according to the law, carrying out the relevant studies and presenting them to the Ministry of Culture." So far, a document that shows this process has not been presented.

Although Menéame has not yet been contacted by CEDRO, the company is faced with "enormous legal uncertainty" which would also prevent new competitors from entering the market, Seijo warns.

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