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Google threatens French media ban over proposed law

Google has threatened to exclude French media sites from its search results if France passes a law that would make search engines pay for content.

French newspaper publishers have allegedly been pushing for the law that would make search engines, primarily Google, pay them each time a user reads an article by clicking through to their website.

The publishers feel it is unfair that Google receives advertising revenues from searches for news.

French Culture Minister Aurelie Flippetti agrees with proposed law telling a parliamentary commission that it is "a tool that it seems important to me to develop".

However, according to a letter sent to several ministerial offices, Google said such a law "would threaten its very existence".

Google France, which currently redirects 4 billion clicks per month to French media publications, said earlier that the plan "would be harmful to the internet, internet users and news websites that benefit from substantial traffic" that comes via Google's search engine.

(opens in new tab)"France has a track record of enacting laws to protect its local media interest that seem out of step with the conventional wisdom in other markets", Adrian Drury, an analyst with research firm Ovum, told the BBC.

"The question is whether by returning a search result Google is infringing the copyright of a site. The publishers will continue to contest this, but the general consensus is that it is not", he added.

Other European countries are considering similar laws.

Earlier this year, a law was approved - but not as yet passed - in Germany, giving publications Internet copyright that would mean Google would have to pay them to list their sites.

In 2011, Belgium passed a similar law and popular titles including Le Soir (opens in new tab) and La Libre Belgique (opens in new tab) no longer appear in Google searches.