The French Government is backing a new ‘Google law’ which would force the Internet giant to pay for links to newspaper articles.

It’s understood that French publications feel Google is profiting from their copyrighted content: or, at least, is hindering their profits – and they want Google to cough up for linking to their copy.

Google has fought back claiming its search engine draws around four billion clicks every month to French media sites.

Despite this, France’s ailing newspaper industry is pressing on with calls for Google to cough up.

Google regularly links to news sources via its Google News page: but publications must, essentially, apply for listing in this section of the search engine. Organic search results will display news items: and with Google focussing on ‘fresh, unique content’, that may mean news items get an extra bump up the search results.

If France pushes on and makes this law, there could be widespread ramifications across Europe – especially if other Governments decide they too believe Google should pay to link to content produced in their country.

In an interview with France’s Le Figaro newspaper, France’s minister for high technology, Fleur Pellerin, suggested their Government was studying the idea and suggested that: “Europe will be stronger if it can move ahead unified on that idea.”

With Pellerin clearly saying Europe should unite to tackle Google, this could be a massive game changer if France gets its way.

In SEO terms, forcing Google to pay for all European news content could create huge headaches, as Google will refuse.

That could mean the “open Internet” as we know it now, would be partly shut, much like it currently is in Brazil, where newspaper articles aren’t even listed in Google. Euro countries which ‘opt out’ of Google would simply have their news publications ignored by the search engine.

French President Francois Hollande has told representatives of the French regional press that he would fully support any legislation to force Google to pay for linking to their content – with the French parliament potentially bringing in a new search levy as early as January.

The proposal would see Google taxed by the current French Government, in order to support the country’s ailing newspaper industry.

However Google has scoffed at the idea that the company has a negative effect on French newspapers, pointing out that the company draws in four billion clicks a month to various French media and newspaper sites.

In an emailed statement Google said: “It’s not a secret that we think a law like the ones proposed in France and Germany would be very damaging to the Internet. We have said so publicly for three years.”

Having already seen Brazilian newspapers pull out of Google News, the Internet giant has taken these proposals as a threat to its very own existence. As a result, Google has even threatened to remove French newspaper sites from its listings entirely if the proposed laws were to go through.

Their executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, was due to meet with Hollande today (Oct 29).

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