October 19, 2012 - 11:11 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Internet giant Google has warned it would exclude French media sites from its search results if France adopts a law forcing search engines to pay for content, in the latest confrontation with European governments, AFP reports.
A letter sent by Google to several French ministerial offices this month said it "cannot accept" such a move and the company "as a consequence would be required to no longer reference French sites," according to a copy obtained by the news agency.
France's new Socialist government, which is open to helping struggling media companies, warned Google that it should not threaten democratic governments.
Google said a law which would require it to make payments to media sites for displaying links to their content, would "threaten (Google's) very existence".
It also noted that Google "redirects four billion 'clicks' per month towards the Internet pages" of French media.
Media have had difficulty benefitting from the Google traffic, however, as online readers resist paying for access when so much content is free on the Internet.
Newspapers around the world have seen their bottom lines come under pressure as their print advertising revenues slide as more people read news online.
Google takes in tens of billions of dollars annually as companies seek to advertise their wares as Internet users search for content.
Leading French newspaper publishers last month called on the government to adopt a law imposing a settlement in the long-running dispute with Google, forcing it and other search engines to share some of the advertising revenue from user searches for news contained on media websites.
Their demand follows the German government approving in August draft legislation that would force search engines to pay commissions to German media websites.
Google France has said that it believes such laws "would be harmful to the Internet, Internet users and news websites that benefit from substantial traffic" sent to them by Google's search engine.
French lawmakers last year ultimately rejected plans for a tax on online advertising revenues, fearing the project would hurt small local companies more than global Internet giants like Google, Facebook or Twitter.
The EU agencies told Google it had a few months to fix the policy or face legal action.
EU competition authorities also have an ongoing anti-trust probe into whether the Internet search giant had abused its dominant market position.