France could start taxing Google for republishing news snippets, president warns

Issues between publishers and Google should be resolved quickly to avoid new taxes, the French president said

France may introduce a law to make Google pay to republish news snippets if it doesn't strike a deal with French news publishers before the end of the year, the office of French President François Hollande said on Monday.

French publishers want to share in the revenue that Google earns from advertising displayed alongside their news snippets in search results. Readers are

often satisfied by reading the headline and summary published by Google News, and don't feel the need to click through to the news site, the publishers say. In this way, Google profits and the content creators don't.

The publishers want to be able to charge Google to compensate them for ad revenue losses.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt met Hollande late on Monday. He also met the Minister of Culture and Communication, Aurélie Filippetti, and the Minister for SMEs, Innovation and the Digital Economy, Fleur Pellerin, to discuss the publishers' grievances.

Hollande said during the meeting that Google is not paying enough French taxes relative to the value it gets from French content, according to a statement issued by his office.

He told Schmidt he wanted Google to reach an agreement with publishers by the end of the year. If they could not agree, a law like that proposed in Germany could be introduced, Hollande said, according to the statement.

In August, the German cabinet backed a proposal to extend copyright protection to news article snippets republished by search engines. If the law comes into force, publishers could be allowed to charge Google and other search engines for republishing parts of their articles.

Google declined to comment on the discussions, but repeated its earlier stance: "It's no secret that we think a law like the one proposed in Germany would be very damaging to the Internet. We have said so publicly for three years. We hope it will not be implemented."

Nathalie Collin, president of the French Association for Political and General News Publications, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Guillaume Frappat, head of economic and digital affairs at the French National Magazine Publishers' Society (SEPM) also couldn't be reached. Both organizations are known to back plans to charge Google for republishing articles.

It is not the first time French publishers have pushed for measures to share in Google's revenue. Last year, a proposed Google tax law that should compensate publishers for losses was canceled. That tax law would have required advertising network operators such as Google, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo to declare how much revenue they made for an honor-assessed tax.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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