It looks like Google is paying to link to French publishers' content.
Google and publishers in France have not been seeing eye to eye for quite some time. In October, the company spoke out about a proposal by French lawmakers, backed by publishers, which would seek for search engines to license content in order to have the privilege of linking to it.
At the time, Google's Director of Public Policy in France said, “The web has led to an explosion of content creation, by both professional and citizen journalists. So it’s not a secret that we think a law like the one proposed in France and Germany would be very damaging to the internet. We have said so publicly for three years.”
“In order to shed light on the reasons that lead us to believe that this law is detrimental to French users, innovation on the Internet and ultimately to the news publishers themselves, we decided to post the note in its entirety,” he said. “We have always been and remain committed to collaborate with French Publishers associations as they experiment and develop sustainable economic models on the Internet.”
On Friday, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, announced with President Francois Hollande, two initiatives to "help stimulate innovation and increase revenues" for French publishers.
Reuters reports it as "a deal on payment of media links," as described by a Reuters journalist present at the signing.
Google has agreed to create a €60 million fund called the DIgital Publishing Innovation Fund to "help support transformative digital publishing initiatives for French readers." Google says it will also "deepen" its partnership with French publishers to help increase their online revenues using Google's ad technology.
"This exciting announcement builds on the commitments we made in 2011 to increase our investment in France—including our Cultural Institute in Paris to help preserve amazing cultural treasures such as the Dead Sea Scrolls," said Schmidt. "These agreements show that through business and technology partnerships we can help stimulate digital innovation for the benefit of consumers, our partners and the wider web."
The announcement follows a similar one Google made in December, when it reached an agreement with publishers in Belgium after six years of litigation, which saw publishers sue Google claiming that it violated their copyrights by displaying snippets in Google News and linking to cached copies of their pages in Google search.
As part of the agreement in Belgium, Google said it would advertise its services on publishers' media, and publishers would optimize their use of AdWords. Google would also work with Belgian French-language publishers to "help increase publishers' revenue," collaborating on ways to make money with Paywalls and subscriptions, and with AdSense and the Ad Exchange. Google would also work with Belgian publishers to implement Google+ social tools and launch YouTube channels.
At the time, Google had indicated it would like to come to similar terms with publishers around the world, and it looks like today's announcement is the next step in that.
It's going to be quite interesting to see how Google deals with the rest of the countries with publishers who have voiced similar concerns as those in France.