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Google Professor appointed in Paris

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Google has created a sponsored academic post in France, the Google@HEC chair at the HEC Paris business school. It's "a worldwide first for Google", according to the Chocolate Factory's PR department.

France views itself as the birthplace of creator's rights and the cradle of culture, and it has led the European fulminations against Google on several fronts. France led the initiative for a European cultural archive Europeana.eu and against the Google books settlement. President Sarkozy even said that arch-rival Microsoft "personifies the values of France" – praise guaranteed to send the immaculately arranged paperclips on Larry Page's desk flying in all directions.

But France, we must remember, is also the centre of surrealism. And what could be more surreal than a Google-sponsored business professor? Especially considering this graph.

For the record, the Google chair will cover topics including: "Classes in e-business and Digital Economy for first- and second-year Masters students", and our favourite, something called "Google Creativity Talks", which are "regular meetings between students and creators (entrepreneurs, designers, artists etc)".

Love the "Artists Etc". It could be a Talking Heads song.

The only puzzle is why Google feels it needs to overtly sponsor an academic. Ivory tower academia overwhelmingly supports Google's side in its battles against authors and media companies and telcos. And Google already makes substantial donations to academics including a $2bn donation to Stanford's cyberlaw institute, while Lawrence Lessig was there, and the Berkman Center. It has also thrown cash at quasi-NGOs, including the ACLU, and has been a substantial donor of Wikipedia daddy the Wikimedia Foundation. You never know when these favours come in handy.

So funding a chair seems superfluous, evoking Humbert Wolfe's observation about British journalists:

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to."

For the academics, the web is the last utopia. It must survive. ®

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