Quebec's language laws stretch into cyberspace

A couple selling maple syrup over the Internet has been fined for operating an English-only Web site in Quebec.

Muriel and Stanley Reid were cited for violating Quebec's language law, Bill 101. They plan to challenge the fine in court.

The Reids and at least 10 people in the province have been fined under the French Language Charter while doing business in cyberspace.

The law allows retailers to display English words, but there must be a French translation, seen as markedly predominant.

The Reids say they're selling to customers outside Quebec who only speak English.

Their lawyer, Brent Tyler, says Quebec's language law was written long before the world got wired, and he adds the language charter doesn't even mention the word "Internet".

Grald Paquette, a spokesman for L'Office de la Langue Franaise, says the law was designed to protect the French language and applies to any advertisement in any medium.

"Our position is, the media is not the important thing. It's the message."