May 29, 2009

Germany Questions Google’s Online Book Plans

The European Union's executive body is going to study Google's plans to make money from its books, which are available online, after Germany said the Internet search giant's project openly disregards EU copyright laws.

On Thursday the bloc's industry ministers agreed to ask the European Commission to find how Google's settlement with authors in the U.S. has affected writers' rights in the EU.

"The commission will carefully study the whole issue and, if need be, to take steps," Vladimir Tosovsky, industry minister for the Czech EU presidency, told a news conference.

Germany has launched a "Heidelberg Appeal," which claims that intellectual property is being stolen from German authors.

In a presentation to industry ministers on Thursday in Brussels, Germany said that Google has scanned books from U.S. libraries without prior consent of rights holders to create its Google Books database.

"Among the books scanned are numerous books by European rights holders," the German paper said.

Britain and France have said they support Germany's concerns.

Groups of American authors and publishers have reached a deal to allow Google to digitize millions of books.  The deal would also affect European authors published in America, though they can opt out of the deal.  The deal still requires court approval.

"Google's actions are irreconcilable with the principles of European copyright law, according to which the consent of the author must be obtained before his or her works may be reproduced or made publicly available on the Internet," the German paper said.

Google said it was happy to have any constructive dialogue on the future of books and copyright.

"We will now have a welcome opportunity to explain to the European Commission how authors, publishers and Google have agreed to move forward in the United States," a spokesman for the company in Brussels said.

Google's actions, according to Germany, might increase media ownership concentration and affect cultural diversity.  Last November, the EU launched its own digital library, but was soon swamped by 10 million hits an hour and crashed.


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