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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Europe split on Google book plans

By David Reid
Reporter, BBC Click

Google's $125m deal with the American book industry is on hold

Google plans to put millions of the world's books online and create the world's largest virtual library by 2010.

The company has already scanned 10 million out-of-print books as part of its Library Project.

Google plans to charge people for access to its large online collection of books and to act as a selling agent of books through its Google Editions.

Critics fear it is creating a monopoly over information, and are unhappy at the firm digitising titles against the wishes of many authors and publishers.


French publisher La Martiniere is one of many who have taken Google to court for using its books without asking first.

"What I find a bit scandalous is that a company like Google can come and digitise works published by this company without asking our permission and without paying either the authors or the publishers," said publisher Herve de La Martiniere.

He launched his court case three years ago, but Google has continued scanning books during this period.

"I find this intolerable," said Mr La Martiniere. "It is like someone comes to your house and takes your furniture and says, 'if you want to come and get them back, you can, but in the meantime they are mine'," he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
The German Chancellor believes copyright should be protected online

Google reached a $125m deal with the American book industry in 2008, but implementation of it has been delayed by a judge in New York.

While a US agreement may be in sight, Google is yet to come to a blanket legal arrangement with European authors and publishers.


In October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel attacked Google in her weekly video blog by saying that copyright must be protected on the internet.

She said her government rejected Google's "scanning of books without any copyright protection".

Google is applying to have the La Martiniere case heard in the United States, where the copying took place.

American law allows Google to show excerpts of copyrighted books, but the law in France forbids it.

Santiago de la Mora, head of print content partnerships in Europe for Google, said his firm was listening to publishers.

"If the publisher has granted us permission to display a percentage of the book, we will do so. If not, then you will only see a snippet, a little abstract or fragment," he said. "We are very much aware of the difference."

Mr de la Mora added that more than 30,000 publishers have granted Google permission to display a preview of books - he believes this will make consumers more likely to buy them.

Patrick Bazin, Lyon library director
Library director Patrick Bazin is happy about Google digitising books for free

Free digitising

The European Union has its own project to digitise library collections which was first mooted as a counter to Google.

The Europeana project aims to keep art, culture and out-of-print books free from commercial control.

Not everyone is opposed to Google's plans - some libraries view the firm's commercial ambitions as a chance to get their collections digitised for free.

Patrick Bazin, director of the library in the French city of Lyon, explained that if libraries do not digitize their collections, they run the risk of disappearing from the cultural landscape.

He added that Google's investment could be used to his library's advantage.

"Our aim is not to supply a private company with digital versions of our books, but to have digital versions so we can build a digital library.

"We estimated that to digitise the 500,000 books we are going to would cost us 60m euros. We don't have 60m euros," he explained.

Watch Click on BBC News Channel, Saturday 31 October at 11.30 (GMT).

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