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Google fights back against German 'link tax' proposal

Google is fighting back against a proposed German law that could end easy web access for the search giant.

What began in August as a simple update to Germany's Federal Copyright law has become an international kerfuffle, pushing Google to reach out to its users for help.

A recent petition invites people to "defend your network" from the proposal that would force search engines to pay copyright fees every time a newspaper article link appears on services like Google News.

"Most people have never heard of this proposed legislation," Google country director Stefan Tweraser said in a statement, according to ZDNet. "Such a law would affect every internet user in Germany [and] mean less information for consumers and higher costs for companies."

According to the site, this version of the bill has been pared down from a previous iteration, which would have also forced payment by businesses that let employees search the web while at work.

Google's public plea points to trouble, the Financial Times said, adding that the French and Italian governments have shown interest in following Germany's legal lead.

Interested parties can provide their first and last name, email address, and "your message" in an effort to freeze the proposed law. Through a rough translation, the Google petition warns users that "For you it would be so much more difficult in the Internet to find the information that you seek."

An interactive map accompanies the petition, detailing who residents can contact to lobby against the bill.

Germany and Google have butted heads before. Google voluntarily opted out of expanding its Street View program within Germany in 2011 amidst a privacy-related backlash, and was briefly prohibited from using its Gmail brand in the region.

The law (available in German) was proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and is backed by publishing giant Axel Springer and others, ZDNet reported.