Standing in the way of progress?Life in Spain Wed, 31 Dec 2014
The internet has transformed our lives. The way in which most people communicate, research, work and relax has changed immeasurably and it won’t stop there. We cannot imagine what the next twenty years will hold in terms of this revolution. And it is a revolution.
The internet has changed the fundamentals of the way we live purposefully and irreversibly.
The question now is, what can we do to alleviate some of the detrimental effects that it is having? The internet brings with it many benefits but also some serious issues. Cyberbullying, internet fraud as well as the undermining of some traditional industries have made it, for some, the enemy within.
For example, the legislators in Spain are currently facing two major concerns linked to internet use:
- The erosion of journalism and traditional forms of publication through the spread of second-hand media outlets
- The summoning of taxis through Uber
In response, Spain is taking a particular stand to soften the blow for these traditional businesses. Spanish legislators have decided, on our behalf, that these types of internet use need nullifying rather than nurturing.
Uber is a US car-sharing service that is spreading throughout Europe.
The company does not own cars or employ drivers but connects those wanting to travel with vehicles through its app. The UberPop service is a car-sharing scheme that acts as an alternative to taxis.
Uber has become the focus of concerns now in a number of countries as it is accused of being unfair competition and not fulfilling the requirements that other tax services must comply with.
In Spain, a complaint about Uber was made by the Madrid Taxi Association (AMT). As a result, Uber has been ordered to stop operating across the whole of Spain. Not only is Uber banned from operating but payment processing companies have been told that they must stop transactions with them and any apps that offer the service have been banned as well.
However, there are already those who are questioning the monopoly that existing Spanish taxi services have, especially in the light of the importance of sharing transport. Rather than being gone for good, Uber is more likely to reform behind enemy lines.
The Google Tax comes as part of Spain’s new Intellectual Property Act, which came into effect on January 1st 2015. It imposes fees on services which post links and excerpts of news articles from other sources.
It was pushed for by the Association of Spanish Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) in an attempt to protect the print media industry. Spanish papers who wish their content to be used in this way without charge cannot forfeit the compensation as the right is ‘inalienable’.
The result perhaps hasn’t come as a surprise. The Google news service in Spain will shut down. Google state:
‘This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.’
Those supporting Google News in Spain suggest that the inclusion of snippets on their website drives people to the source of the information and that these websites will subsequently suffer from a loss of profit. Those who oppose it rue the monopoly that Google has.
The right step forward?
In some respects legislating defensively might be applauded. These developments are eroding (arguably) two main forms of employment. However, not everyone agrees with Spain’s approach of trying to protect these occupations through legislation.
Looking at history and the overall trend of things to come, it is hard to see how these industries will benefit in the long term. It might not be in the name of Uber or Google but if the demand is there something similar will emerge. This is not just swimming against the tide, it’s swimming against the tsunami.
Rather than trying to prevent these developments perhaps we should be considering how traditional employment patterns are changing and will continue to need to change. Prohibition and legislation can give the appearance of an ‘Amish’ approach to life which will not improve the country’s reputation as a world leader in technology.
There are other, long-term issues. How will Spain enforce these prohibitions and how does it look if they are unable to do so? Perhaps countries such as Spain, should turn more of their attention to how online innovations can be brought inline rather than trying to quash them completely.