Google - French standoff as Hollande refuses to budge on news

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The French Government has vowed to stand by its initial threats to charge Google for any links it has to newspaper sites following a brief 45 minute meeting with Google chief executive Eric Schmidt.

French President Francois Hollande has promised to stick to his original plan to try to force through the legislation as early as January. He wants Google to settle a dispute with the French press over revenue from online content.

In a press release published following the meeting, the French Presidency said it hoped a conclusion could be reached "before the end of the year."

It has been alleged that a variety of French, German and Italian press associations feel Google is profiting from them to the detriment of their news industry - and they now want Google to pay their dues.

The Google News page generates links to news: but at present publications have to apply for listing in this section of Google's search engine.

Google says it sends around four billion clicks to French media sites every month through its search listings: essentially free traffic which requires no SEO efforts on the part of the media. This traffic essentially generates extra online 'readership', and as such, could contribute to revenue from banners and ads on French media sites.

It may then, seem odd to want to get rid of so much traffic: however, some parts of the media feel that the "rich snippets" provided by the Google News listings 'give away' too much information about a story, and, as most people spend just a few minutes surfing for news, they are able to digest headlines, and a short summary, without clicking through to the news website itself.

New and original content are at the forefront of the new wave of algorithm updates, such as Google Panda, and that means organic search results will often display news items higher in the ranking.

The problem for the "open Internet" now however is that if France pushes on and makes this law, major ramifications could then spread across Europe.

If other Governments take influence from France, they too could decide to try to make Google pay to link to content produced in their country: as it appears the Italian and German governments are inkling towards.

With ripples already spreading to Italian and German press firms - the German government initially approved a draft legislation back in August aimed at forcing search engines to pay commissions to German media sites, Google is becoming increasingly concerned for its very existence.

Resultantly, Google feels backed into a corner - it has repeatedly said it will not pay to link to news articles, and feels any Government legislation would force the search engine to stop displaying news or media results completely from a particular country. This has, in essence, already happened in Brazil, where, after similar press complaints, Google no longer lists news articles. The company is standing firm and is likely to severe ties with any countries that take a similar approach.

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