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aurelie filippetti

Google has threatened to exclude French media sites from its search results if France goes ahead with plans to make search engines to pay for content.

In a letter sent to several ministerial offices, Google said such a law “would threaten its very existence”.

French newspaper publishers have been pushing for the law, saying it is unfair that Google receives advertising revenue from searches for news.

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti also favors the idea.

Aurelie Filippetti told a parliamentary commission it was “a tool that it seems important to me to develop”.

Google France had 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.

It said it redirected four billion clicks to French media pages each month.

Print newspapers have seen their incomes gradually eroded in recent years as consumers and advertisers turn to the web.

Previously the French government has considered introducing a tax on online advertising revenues but it later dropped the plan, worried it would hurt small local companies more than global internet giants.

“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,” said Adrian Drury, an analyst with research firm Ovum.

“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.