Google might drop French media from search results over proposed law

The search engine throws down with French lawmakers

Google may stop linking to French media sites if the country adopts a law forcing search engines to license content they direct web traffic to, a new report indicates.

Google France sent a letter to French ministries earlier this month telling officials it "cannot accept" such legislation and it would simply remove French media from search quires. The search engine posted the letter last night explaining its views on the matter.

"The web has led to an explosion of content creation, by both professional and citizen journalists," Google wrote in a post about the note.

"So it's not a secret that we think a law like the one proposed in France and Germany would be very damaging to the internet. We have said so publicly for three years."

The news in France

In September, French newspaper publishers urged the government to pass a bill that would force search engines to pay each time a user reads an article they find through a search.

They said Google snatches up ad dollars they would have otherwise gotten.

The law takes its lead from a similar measure making its way through German legislative bodies.

The bill is reportedly an attempt to buoy struggling media outlets which have had a hard time profiting through internet ad sales.

On the other hand, Google hasn't had any trouble monetizing the billion of searches it performs each day thanks to sponsored links and ads.

French lawmakers seem to think it's only fair that Google pays French media sites a slice of the revenue it earns from linking to content posted by the entities.

For its part, Google said it does enough to help media across the globe.

In its letter, Google told lawmakers the new regulation "would be harmful to the internet, internet users and news websites that benefit from substantial traffic" the search engine sends to the sites.

The company said it redirects four billion clicks per month to French media URLs.

It also said the law would be similar to "asking a taxi driver to pay for taking a customer to a restaurant," and threatens the search engine's very existence.

Google vs France

French legislators said they were surprised by Google's tone.

"You don't deal with a democratically-elected government with threats," French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti told Agence France-Presse.

Filippetti defended the law saying it's "a tool that it seems important to me to develop."

Interestingly, Google already has a licensing deal with Agence France-Presse. The French newswire sued Google in 2007 for copyright violations when the search engine started using clips from AFP.

For the rest of the French media, the publications might find feuding with the internet's biggest search engine isn't an easy ride.

Just last month, U.K. paper The Times opted back into Google after it decided to block all traffic coming from searches. However, about 30 to 40 percent of The Times traffic came from searches, and after two years in the cold it decided to come back.

Google France representatives were scheduled to meet with Franco officials Friday to discuss the law as well as concerns that Google is running afoul of European Union privacy regulations.

Via The Raw Story