updated 10:05 am EDT, Fri October 19, 2012
Claims proposed law 'threatens its very existence'
Google has threatened to remove members of the French media from its news and search results if a proposed law goes ahead. Newspaper publishers in the country are pressing for search engines to pay for links to their content, which if adopted in France, is claimed to "threaten (Google's) very existence." Google has complained via a letter to various French ministerial offices against the move.
The letter, acquired by AFP, sees Google rejecting such a law, and "as a consequence would be required to no longer reference French sites." It is also claimed that the search engine "redirects four billion 'clicks' per month" towards French media sites, but this doesn't stop the newspapers from wanting some of Google's advertising revenues.
The Minister for French Culture, Aurelie Filippetti, supports the law as a "tool that it seems important to me to develop," and was upset at the general tone of the letter from Google. "You don't deal with a democratically-elected government with threats," she told the news agency.
The law is one way for French media to claw back revenues lost over the last few years. Sales of printed newspapers have declined, and attempts to get readers to subscribe to online equivalents has proved troublesome, due to the number of online outlets offering the same content at no charge. The issue is also felt in other countries, with Germany seeking to put a similar revenue-sharing law into practice. Some publications, such as Newsweek, have opted to fundamentally change the way they run their business model, in order to survive.
Google has already spent a considerable amount of time fighting similar issues in Europe. A five-year legal battle between it and Belgian newspapers at one point saw Google forced to remove paper listings from not only Google News, but also from its main search results. This initial block, enforced through a 2006 court order, was seen as retaliation against the media, though access was restored by May 2007. A second, similar content block last year quickly saw newspapers wanting re-inclusion into the main search index.