Paris - French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged internet leaders gathered in Paris on Tuesday to work with governments and share fairly the benefits of a revolution he compared to the discoveries of Columbus, Galileo and Newton.
Opening a forum at which Google's Eric Schmidt and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg will be among the speakers, Sarkozy heaped praise on an industry that has democratised information and helped enable the revolutions of the Arab Spring.
Sarkozy, widely mistrusted in the online world for measures such as a law that calls for copyright pirates to be cut off from the Internet, struck a more conciliatory tone than in the past, although he said governments must still set ground rules.
"We don't want to make mistakes in regulating this powerful yet fragile ecosystem," he said in response to a question from an audience member. "We have to act with pragmatism. It is better to do nothing than to do harm."
He reminded the industry of its responsibilities in the fields of copyright and privacy, drawing a parallel between the intellectual property on which many Web companies are built and the copyright that artists seek to protect.
"These algorithms that constitute your power... this technology that is changing the world, are your property and nobody can contest that," he said. "Writers, directors or actors can have the same rights."