PARIS - European news organizations bleeding money and readers are trying to avoid extinction by asking governments in France, Germany and Italy to step in and charge Google for using their content in its search results - something the Web giant has always done for free.
Critics - including, unsurprisingly, Google - say the strategy is shortsighted and self-destructive, and the search engine warns it will stop indexing European news sites if forced to pay. But publishers advocating a "Google tax" aimed at benefiting their industry point to the example of Brazil, where their counterparts abandoned the search engine and say repercussions have been minimal.
The dispute underscores a fundamental question facing media agencies around the world: Who should benefit from links to online content that is costly to produce and yet generates a fraction of the ad revenue that once allowed newspapers to flourish?
In this Monday, file photo, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt arrives at the Elysee Palace for a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, in Paris. Publishers in France, Germany and Italy want their governments to impose a 'news tax' on Google to save them from extinction, demanding a law that would charge the search engine small payments in exchange for links to stories.
Europe has tried to sidestep Google before. Six years ago, then-French President Jacques Chirac unveiled plans for Quaero (Latin for "I search") as the answer to U.S. dominance of the Internet. The multi-platform search and operating system was supposed to work with desktop computers, mobile devices and even televisions.
Despite millions spent to develop Quaero, it went nowhere.
This week, implicit threats hovered over a meeting between current French President Francois Hollande and Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman.
Hollande demanded Google reach a deal with publishers over the copyright dispute and also address the French taxes it escapes by basing its European headquarters in Ireland. Google essentially reiterated a point it made in a recent letter to French publishers: Paris' latest attempt to impose itself would force readers to "Anglo-Saxon" sites based in countries with more favorable copyright laws, such as Britain and Ireland.
Google's post-meeting statement said the discussions dealt with "the contributions of the Internet to job creation and the influence of French culture in the world."