Google threatens to drop links to French media sites

Should search engines like Google have to pay publishers like newspapers for linking to their content? France says yes, Google says no -- and it's prepared to go nuclear on the issue.

Google executives met with French government officials on Friday to discuss the company's threat to drop French media sites from its search results if France goes through with a proposal to make search engines pay commissions for links to news content.

The owners of many French newspapers are in favor of the tax, believing their revenue and copyrights are compromised when Google's search results display their content. French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti seems to agree. She told a parliamentary commission it is "a tool that it seems important to me to develop."

Google says that such a law would "threaten its very existence," according to a letter it sent to several French officials. The letter was first publicized by French news service Agence France-Presse, which obtained a copy. Google later posted the full letter on its European blog.

Google (GOOG) says in the letter that it "cannot accept" such a move, and consequently would be forced to stop referencing French sites.

Google's representatives met in Paris with Fleur Pellerin, the French Minister for small business, innovation and numeric economy, according to Arnaud Guillois, a spokesman for the French embassy in Washington.

France isn't the only country in Europe to propose such legislation. Germany is considering a similar law.

Such rules "would be very damaging to the internet," Google said in its blog post.

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