Netflix may launch in Spain later this summer

Netflix is looking to launch in Spain later this year, according to local media reports that were relayed by Variety this weekend. According to these reports, Netflix could launch in Spain as early as September. The streaming service has reportedly already negotiated rights to launch in Spain, and TV manufacturers are preparing to carry the Netflix app in Spain this year. Netflix executives announced earlier this year that they want to expand to 200 countries within two years.

Meet Sens’it, a gadget that lets you play with Sigfox’s IoT network

Consumer gadget enthusiasts might have fawned over the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and the Huawei Watch at Mobile World Congress, but if you are an internet of things geek, the most interesting device at MWC was probably at the other end of the Fira Gran Via at Sigfox’s booth. The French startup, which is trying to build a global wireless network solely for the internet of things, was showing off a pill-shaped device it designed to let IoT developers test out its network.

Called the Sens’it, the device has no screen or keypad, just an LED light that doubles as its only button. Under the hood, there are three sensors: an accelerometer, a thermometer and a sound meter, all of which turn themselves on at intervals to take a snapshot of their surroundings and then communicate that data over Sigfox’s network.

If you’re looking for a practical application here, there isn’t one. On its own, the device doesn’t really do anything. Sigfox intends for the device, which was built by Axible, to be a proof of concept that developers can use to create their own applications. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun with it.

The Sensit alongside the Sigfox web app

The Sensit next to the Sigfox web app

Sigfox has created a web app that allows you to access the data Sens’it collects, and it’s built a few communication hooks that trigger email and SMS alerts when the sensors are triggered. For instance, according to Sigfox head of marketing and communications Thomas Nicholls, you could put the Sens’it in your car and get an alert every time it moves. You could place the device in a cabin that otherwise has no power or internet connectivity and measure temperature and sound levels. The Sens’it also has a button that will trigger an email or SMS alert every time you double-tap it.

Nicholls gave me a Sens’it to play with while I was in Barcelona for MWC (Sigfox’s network isn’t in my hometown Chicago yet), and I made it do a few basic things. I got it to trigger an alert when my plane took off from the airport, and I sent random text messages to myself while I was wandering around. But someone with more time and creativity than me could do a lot more with the device by using IFTTT channels or by tapping into SMS APIs like those offered by Twilio and Nexmo.

An immensely useful application would be the ability to generate a “safety” call to my phone with a double tap of the Sens’it button. It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing but dead air at the other end of the line. It would be a great way to get out of conversation when someone has cornered you — on the show floor at MWC, for instance.

All of this is designed to prove the resiliency and range of Sigfox’s network, which is now live in Spain, France and Russia and will soon go online in the Netherlands and in the U.S., starting in San Francisco. Sigfox uses the Industrial Scientific and Medical (ISM) band used by Z-Wave and ZigBee to create a very low-power, long-range and low-throughput network.

A Sigfox ISM radio module

A Sigfox ISM radio module

That network is entirely unsuitable for a gadget or appliance that needs constant high-bandwidth links, such as a car or a tablet, but it excels in the low-bore connectivity world of the industrial internet. Sigfox connects home alarms, parking space sensors, water meters and even dog tracking collars — anything that only needs intermittent access to the network as well as a cheap radio and service plans.

One of the big selling points for Sigfox, Nicholls said, is its extremely long range. It can cover entire cities with just a handful of base stations, and it can reach far out to remote places that even cellular networks don’t reach. I can attest to that. Upon landing in New York after my plane experiment, I opened up my email and discovered that Sens’it had triggered several more emails 10 to 15 minutes after I took off from the Barcelona airport. That means it was still connecting to the Sigfox while we were at cruising altitude over the Spanish countryside. It only stopped linking up with the network once we hit the open ocean.

Sigfox only manufactured an initial batch of 1,000 Sens’it devices, so it’s not handing them out to everyone. But if you’re a service provider, IoT developer or just a curious maker with an idea, you can apply for a Sens’it here.

MWC-2015-ticker

Spanish newspapers beg for help as Google News closure looms

Having lobbied hard for a Spanish law that forces Google to pay royalties for using snippets of articles in its News service, and having since seen the company say it would shut down Google News in Spain because it doesn’t make money off it anyway, Spain’s publishers are now trying to stop that closure.

The Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) said in a statement late last week that “the closure of Google News…is not equivalent to the closing of another service given its dominant position in the market and will undoubtedly have a negative impact on Spanish citizens and businesses.”

AEDE said it therefore “requires the intervention of the Spanish and EU authorities, and of competition authorities to effectively protect the rights of citizens and businesses.”

Google News is due to close its Spanish doors on Tuesday. The intellectual property law (again, fought for by AEDE) is too inflexible for the publishers to be able to grant Google free use of text snippets and image thumbnails — as happened in Germany.

There’s no questioning the fact that Google is, as the statement also notes, “the true gateway to the internet” in Europe, where it has more than a 90 percent share of the search market. As the company’s long-running battle with EU antitrust authorities shows, Google can and sometimes does abuse this position to favor its own services over those of others.

But this copyright dispute, which has played out in several European arenas, has little to do with competition. Google quite reasonably doesn’t think it’s fair to have to pay publishers to send traffic their way — traffic that the publishers then converts into advertising revenue.

The publishers wanted money for nothing. They didn’t get it. Google has the right to shut down its services. The publishers do now face a “negative impact,” but it’s entirely of their own making. It’s just a pity that this negative impact will also hit Spanish citizens.

Google axes News in Spain in response to royalty law

Google has decided to shut down Google News in Spain. The decision follows the passage of a law in July that obliges any news aggregator quoting snippets of text or using thumbnails of images from a copyrighted publication to pay royalties for doing so.

In a blog post late Wednesday, [company]Google[/company] News chief Richard Gingras said the service makes no money because Google doesn’t advertise on it, so it would be unsustainable to continue operations in Spain. With the law set to come into effect in January, Google News will shut there on 16 December.

Spain is not the first European country to pass a so-called ancillary copyright law – Germany did so in March 2013 – but its version is much more heavy-handed.

In the German law, publishers can choose whether or not they want to grant a news aggregator such as Google News the right to use snippets of their copyrighted text in its search results without compensation. This is how the German publishers ultimately caved in: Google refused to pay royalties, so it stopped listing the articles of publishers who belonged to the relevant rights collection group. The publishers in that group ended up granting Google the right to use their text without having to pay up, but did so grumbling that the case demonstrated Google abusing its market power (never mind that other German aggregators had done precisely the same thing.)

Under the Spanish “Google tax” law, that simply wouldn’t be an option. There, the levy is an “inalienable right”, meaning publishers couldn’t give Google News a free pass even if they wanted to. As Weblogs CEO Julio Alonso recently wrote, that applies even to those who publish their content under a free-use copyleft license, such as Creative Commons.

Slippery slope

Google’s struggles with European publishers predate these ancillary copyright laws of the last couple years, and on two occasions it was able to stave off anything as drastic as legislative changes. In late 2012, the company struck a deal with Belgian publishers through which it appeared to buy millions of dollars’ worth of advertising in the relevant publications. And in early 2013 it established a fund for French publishers, to “support digital publishing initiatives.”

Now, following the German and Spanish examples, the idea of the “Google tax” may spread, as the European Commission’s recently-installed digital economy chief, Günther Oettinger, has been making noises about applying it across the EU. The German commissioner, who has the copyright reform file, recently said: “When Google takes intellectual works from within the EU and works with them, then the EU may protect those works and demand a levy from Google for them.”

The issue is also a major strand in the Google search antitrust case although, as I have previously argued, it is a copyright issue that bears little relation to the other elements of the case, and it should be considered separately. The other elements of the case are about harm to consumers and Google’s direct rivals, while this element is only about giving the publishers money for nothing.

The Spanish publishers will no doubt now see their traffic drop off a cliff, just as their German counterparts did, and this will almost certainly hammer their advertising revenues. But, because of the severity of the law they themselves forced, they will be able to do nothing about it. It’s not even a move that could see local rivals to Google flourish, as the law is not specific to the U.S. firm. I have asked AEDE, the relevant collection society, for comment.

In the overall theme of Europe pushing back against U.S. firms – a narrative that I find overplayed sometimes, as there isn’t nearly enough coordination in Europe to make this some kind of plot – Spain is fast emerging as the most heavy-handed player. The authorities there seem more overtly protectionist than elsewhere in Europe, and they’re not afraid to cause severe consequences for internet users and businesses.

When Spain banned Uber earlier this week, for example, the injunction also ordered Spanish ISPs and payment processors to block Uber’s customers from being able to use the service. And, as the EFF has pointed out, the same copyright law that introduced the “Google tax” will also introduce criminal liability for websites that refuse to remove links to copyright-infringing material.

Uber banned in Spain & Thailand, sued in Portland, hassled in Rio

On Tuesday, both Thailand and Spain banned Uber. You know the drill by now: The company’s drivers don’t have taxi permits and/or insurance, and the authorities have had an earful from furious cab drivers who do have to pay for such things. Yesterday it was authorities in Delhi that told the firm to stop operating locally, after an Uber driver allegedly raped a passenger. Meanwhile, the cities of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and Portland, Oregon, have also told the firm to stay off the roads (via police complaint and lawsuit respectively), and an Uber driver in San Francisco has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for driving over and killing a six-year-old girl.

Europe probes Orange-Jazztel merger over competition concerns

The European Commission has launched an investigation into Orange’s proposed takeover of Spain’s Jazztel. France’s Orange already has a Spanish subsidiary, whose connectivity Jazztel resells as a mobile virtual network operator. Jazztel, founded by Fon boss Martin Varsavsky 16 years ago, is more of a fixed-line player, while Orange has both mobile and fixed networks in Spain. The Commission said in a statement that it is worried about the fact that the merger would result in just three nationwide fixed-line communications providers in Spain (the others are Telefónica and Vodafone) and, by reducing competition, allow the ISPs to increase their prices. Orange has proposed commitments to keep things fair, but the Commission doesn’t think they go far enough.

Airbnb fined $41K over renting of unregistered Barcelona apartments

Airbnb has been fined €30,000 ($41,000) by the Catalonian authorities in Spain, who say the short-term rental marketplace has been illegally making money off properties that aren’t registered for tourist usage. The authorities, who are partly trying to protect traditional hotels, want Airbnb to stop listing unregistered properties and any individual rooms, which are illegal to rent to tourists. It’s a complex situation – many people in Barcelona make a lot of much-needed cash from renting out rooms and apartments to holiday-goers, but many of their neighbors aren’t so keen on seeing their residential buildings filled with late-partying tourists. There are vocal campaigners on both sides, and echoes of Airbnb’s struggles with New York regulators.