The new socialist government in France is making ridiculous noises over taxing Web links. It threatens to pass a new law: if a Web link leads to an online press article, then an unspecified ‘fee’ will need to be paid. Paid even if that article is freely and openly published online, it seems. Paid even if the link comes from overseas, potentially.
The proposed law is targeted first at Google News, but a fundamental threat to the existing Web links ecosystem seems obvious. The new law reportedly has the highest backing — the French Culture minister appears to love the notion. Which would seem to suggest that their new government just doesn’t understand the Web.
Leaving aside issues of ‘fair use’, and the seeming inability of French publishers to monetize around four billion Google visits a month, one wonders if France has really considered the consequences of its planned law. Is France prepared to risk a worldwide online protest over its threat to the fundamental ‘freedom to link’ and to the open Web? The highly successful ‘SOPA blackout’ protest of January 2012 showed what could be done. Will the French Culture minister be so breezy if a big chunk of inbound French links are simply wiped off the Web for a period, perhaps coinciding with France’s peak online holiday-bookings week for overseas tourists? All it would take is one techie to whip up a simple script for webmasters that diverts outbound traffic headed for France. To a picture of a French poodle, perhaps.