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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 If you refer to it or to its content,  you should cite my name as the  author, and provide a link back to  Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten,  Will Lex Google  guillotine the publishers?  in,  31 October   2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.




Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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