Google launches Internet campaign in Germany to protest against proposed copyright law

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Google launched an Internet campaign in Germany on Tuesday aiming to drum up public support against a proposed law that would force the search engine to pay publishers for content offered on the site.

The one-minute Internet video, entitled "defend your net", shows consumers using the search engine to find what they want on the web.

"For more than 10 years, you have been able to find the things that move you. A planned law will now change that," the firm says in the video.

"Do you want that to happen? Get involved," ends the message, offering users the possibility to sign an online petition against the law, due to be debated in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on Thursday.

The draft law dubbed the "Lex Google" as the giant US search engine is seen as the main target would force search engines to pay a fee to publishers when Internet users click through to their content.

Demanded for many years by powerful media groups such as Axel Springer and Bertelsmann, which want to retain the copyright over their content, the draft legislation is backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition.

The media groups also argue that a user of "Google News" can simply read the short summaries offered on the front page to get his or her fix of the daily news, rather than clicking through to the paper concerned.

But the head of Google Germany, Stefan Tweraser, hit back, saying: "The majority of citizens have never heard of this draft law even though it could affect all Internet users in Germany."

Tweraser said the law would restrict the content citizens could access on the web and result in higher costs for companies.

However, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger noted that consumers did have a choice.

"There are other search engines than Google," she told business daily Handelsblatt in its Wednesday edition.

France is also pushing Google to compensate media websites.

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