French Publishers Take On Google Books Project

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Attorneys representing Editions du Seuil, a publisher, maintained in a French court that the Google book project violates French law due to the fact that the search engine makes no attempt to contact existing copyright owners before a book is scanned online. The French publisher is requesting 18 million Euros in damages for copyright infringement and financial harm to the editor, along with a court order demanding that Google stop scanning copyrighted works, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, La Martiniere, the French Publishers' Association and Authors' group SGDL requested that Google pay 15 million Euros, and 100,000 Euros for each day it continues to digitize records.

Publishers and authors have organized to oppose Google's $125 million agreement, establishing a "Book Rights Registry" to identify and pay rights holders. The organization has lobbied the search engine giant to modify the settlement to take into account international perspectives and criticisms.

Attorneys opposing the Google Books project argued that digitizing French works would illegally "stockpile French heritage," arguing that the case, which targets Google's French unit, should be tried under French law, Reuters reports.

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Google, however, contended that it aimed to create a global book service that makes rare or out-of-print books accessible to an international audience.

The trial is the culmination of a three-year legal battle challenging Google Books, which publishers claim undermines international copyright laws due to the fact that it seeks to publish untold books without receiving prior approval from copyright holders.

Opposition to Google Books started to crescendo after Google reached a court settlement with several major publishers and industry regulators, including The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, which gave the search engine giant the right to scan, sell and distribute millions of books on the Web. As part of the deal, Google retains unfettered rights to thousands of out-of-print and orphaned works -- works without a known copyright holder.

Meanwhile, a federal judge on Thursday granted a request to delay an Oct. 7 hearing brought by The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, regarding the proposed settlement of copyright suits brought against Google, according to The Wall Street Journal. The move delays a fairness hearing in an attempt to amend the settlement.

In October 2008, Google agreed to allow libraries free and unlimited access to its online collection, while charging universities and other organizations a monthly subscription fee. Google also planned to charge individual consumers a fee for online access to out-of-print books.

However, critics argue that the settlement gives Google too many exclusive rights to the published materials, including the power to control the sale and distribution of out-of-print works. Critics also contend that the agreement gives Google the ability to control how out-of-print works are displayed, and could give the Mountain View, Calif.-based company the legal ability to censor works at their discretion.

Google has already scanned about 10 million books for its Google Books project and plans to scan millions more.