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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
French book publisher sues Google
Herve de la Martiniere, president of French publishing group La Martiniere
French publisher La Martiniere claims Google "counterfeits" its work
A French publishing group is to sue Google for publishing book excerpts online without permission.

La Martiniere accuses the technology company of "counterfeiting and breach of intellectual property rights" by digitising about 100 of its titles.

Google is scanning millions of books, allowing users to access the full text of works in the public domain or extracts from those under copyright.

The publisher is demanding 100,000 euros (69,000) for each book involved.

La Martiniere owns the French company Le Seuil, along with Delachaux and Niestle in Switzerland and Harry N Abrams in the United States.

The lawsuit will be filed in a court in Paris and will target both Google France and its parent company, the American group Google Inc.

In a statement Google said the court case was not necessary as publishers could simply withdraw consent for their use in the service,

"We disagree with their case, which we will contest in court. Google Book Search helps users find and buy books - not read or download them for free."

The statement added: "It is directly beneficial to authors and their publishers because it enables them to reach a wider global audience, while protecting their copyrights.

Criticism of scheme

Google is attempting to copy every book in the collections of several major world libraries unless specifically denied permission to do so by the publisher of a title.

It has faced criticism from organisations such as the Association of American University Presses, which represents 125 non-profit-making academic publishers.

Google logo
Users can search for full texts or extracts depending on copyright
It claimed the project could undermine sales of works to which publishers own the rights.

"In order for the suit to be effective, we have requested a penalty of 100,000 euros for each infraction discovered and for each day's delay," said Yann Colin, La Martiniere's lawyer.

"That means that if Google breaches a ban... imposed by the court at the end of the proceedings, it would cost Google very dear to carry on."

'Dominance' of English

The national publishers' union of France, Le Syndicat national de l'Edition, has repeatedly condemned the library project and threatened legal action.

There have been concerns in France that the project will enhance the dominance of the English language.

Last year, France and several other European countries received European Union backing for a rival book-scanning project for publications which are not in English.

Supporters of the Google project have argued in the past that copyright is protected because many of the works being scanned initially are old texts not by living authors.

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