June 12, 2012

Google’s Digital Book Project Sees Settlement With French Parties

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com

In Google's bid to create a digital book economy - way ahead of eBook publishers such as Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and other creators of eBook readers - a few lawsuits cropped up in the U.S. and internationally. This week a settlement was reached with two French organizations: Society of Men Letters of France (SGDL) and the French Publishers' Association.

Google said Monday it reached an agreement with the two parties, according to articles in Reuters and The New York Times. The two parties objected to Google's scanning of books to make them available electronically. Lawsuits were dropped by the French Publishers' Association and the Society of Men Letters of France, which had claimed that Google's book-scanning violated copyright.

Under the agreement, Google will set up a "framework" agreement under which publishers are able to offer digital versions of their works for Google to Sell. The deal is similar to one formed separately with French publishers Hachette and La Martiniere. Under those agreements, publishers retain control over many conditions of the book-scanning project, including the decision to make titles available.

"What we are saying is that this agreement respects our copyright law in France," said Christine de Mazieres, managing director of the French Publishers' Association as stated in the New York Times Article. "That is very important."

A settlement between Google and U.S. publishers is still pending. Courts have dismissed a $125 million settlement proposal, which allows for any book that had been scanned to automatically be included in Google's database unless the rights holder specifically opts out. An agreement under this suit is still pending.

While France, among other European countries, has been vocal in protesting the book-scanning service, it actually emerges as a front-runner in Google's digital book project. Google said that France is now the only country where there is an industry-wide book-scanning agreement in place. The agreement covers books that are out of print but still under copyright. The New York Times says that the category covers a majority of the world's books.

"Our hope is that these path-breaking partnerships will help jump-start the emerging French electronic book markert," said Philippe Colombet, head of Google Books France, in the New York Times article. The Google rep went so far as to call the settlement and its results an innovation. "No question this is an innovation. We are interested in exporting these deals elsewhere."

Now that an agreement has been reached in France, it's likely other agreements will follow to allow Google Books to progress and offer more titles in more countries.

In France, the government is paving the way for more books to be brought to the digital format. The Parliament recently passed a law authorizing the French National Library to scan out-of-print works whose copyright holder cannot be found. This will bring many unavailable books back to public access.

Google began its digital book project in 2004, and has spent years since that time battling individual publishers and groups to continue its project. Now that an agreement has been reached in France, other settlements that will make hard-to-find print works available digitally are expected.