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Quebec demands site use French

Quebec's language police are cracking down on Web sites that don't use enough French.

Quebec's language police are cracking down on Web sites that don't use enough French.

The Office de la Langue Française (OLF), the Quebec government office that enforces French-language rules, has told Quebec-based Micro-Bytes that it has until July 2 to change its pages or face fines.

Micro-Bytes, which uses the Web to advertise its products, states on its site that it plans to redesign its site to be completely bilingual. But it insists that "This is not due to pressure of the OLF, but because this is what we want to do."

After receiving a complaint, the OLF notified Micro-Bytes in February that it was violating article 52 of the French-language charter, said G?rald Paquette, spokesman for the OLF. Article 52 requires that various forms of advertising be bilingual, though Internet-based advertising is not cited specifically. Paquette said Micro-Bytes is not the first Web site OLF has ordered to change, but it is the first one that has not immediately complied with the order.

Micro-Bytes originally pulled down much of its Web site but on Sunday it decided to put it back up after hearing from so many supportive Netizens, said Marc Silverman, manager of Micro-Bytes.

Supporters told Silverman that "if you bend over and give them what they want they'll do that to everyone," Silverman said. "We don't want to make a stink but everyone seemed to want us to. Somebody has to be No. 1."

Silverman said he worries that the law means Micro-Bytes will have to make the site predominantly French and that would be bad for business. "I have a very, very large English population and mostly my Web page is for people outside Quebec," he said. "If I put it solely in French I'll be alienating most of the people who use the Web. I want it bilingual."

"It's a World Wide Web. It's not a Quebec-based Web," Silverman said.

The government of France has similarly tried to enforce a French-on-the-Web rule for French companies. A court case that would have tested the rule, however, recently was thrown out on a technicality.