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Outright war declared between Google and the French media.

France could have a law in place by next year that could kill off large chunks of Twitter and cause whole swathes of cyberspace to fall silent. The law, dubbed Lex Google, is demanded by French, German and Italian media in name of protecting their businesses. It puts at risk the lifeblood of Internet communication, namely hyper-linking. The outcome could be an all-out commercial war between the print media and the Internet giant Google.

The media companies want the government to force Google to pay for linking to their web-pages. This is not about copyright. It is a battle over advertising revenues, and arguably a mis-guided attempt by media-owners to try to recoup some ad money that has run away with the Internet.

The idea for the Lex Google law has been put forward by a lobby group called IPG, representing media companies and newspapers.

French President Francois Hollande is reported to have told them that he would support the adoption of such a law early in 2013. The law unsurprisingly has the support of the of Culture Ministry (which was responsible for the Hadopi law), although the other Ministry involved (Digital Economy), is said to be less enthousiastic.

But the Lex Google law could end up with an own goal for the media companies. Google has threatened that if the government pursues this law, it will cut the French media out of its indexes entirely. That would put all French newspapers into cyber-darkness. It would be likely to severely slash their page views, and one would think, have a negative effect on advertising.

According to Le Figaro, the threat was reported by the French news agency Agence France Press, which got hold of a leaked letter from Google to various government minstries.

On Monday this week, the two sides met across the table. As reported by the Owni blog, Google chief Eric Schmidt stepped into the sumptuous rooms at the Elysee for a face-to-face with President Hollande, Fleur Pellérin, Minister for the Digital Economy, and Culture Minister, Aurélie Filippettii.

On Friday, Eric Schmidt will have a second meeting with the Digital Economy Minister, Fleur Pellerin.

The media groups claim that Google makes a large percentage of its profits out of linking to their content, and this claim forms the basis of their demand for the new law.

It's not surprising that there has been an outcry from Internet users, who say the Lex Google law is total folly.

According to Guillaume Champeau of Numerama, the law would forbid just about any kind of linking, even from websites other than Google. Links from Wikipedia and other websites that rely on citations of sources would be forbidden. It would even be against the law for companies to pull together their own press cuttings on a page using links to the orignal articles.

Champeau notes the irony that the Lex Google will put free speech in France severely at risk, yet it is demanded by the media who purport to defend free speech.

Certainly, Lex Google will have the effect of guillotining content. The question is, whose content - big media or all the rest of us?

This is an original article from Iptegrity.com. If you refer to it or to its content, you should cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics - please cite as Monica Horten, Will Lex Google guillotine the publishers? in www.iptegrity.com, 31 October 2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.


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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

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