Hollande Signs Historic Google Pact

FRENCH  president Francois Hollande signed an historic agreement February 1 with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, settling a dispute that was threatening to escalate between French media and the internet giant.

The dispute is a long running one between European publishers and Google. In this case, French media had claimed they were losing money and readers as a result of Google’s unauthorized use of their content--essentially snippets of news picked up and regurgitated on Google's search page. The same complaint has come from publishers in Italy and Germany, and Germany had already put into draft a law that would make it very expensive for Google to use such content.

Hollande had threatened to institute a new tax that would make search engines pay each time they use content from French media if a solution to the dispute wasn't reached. Google had counter-threatened to drop all French media sites from its search page. Under terms of the deal, Google can continue to use the news snippets. In turn, Google will help French news organizations increase their online advertising revenue and also will set up a Euro 60 ($82 million) fund aimed at financing digital publishing innovation.

Given the infant state of international law, the pact has little legal force, should it be challenged, but it is historic in that it acknowledges the seriousness of the issue on both sides.