First Germany, now France. Nicolas Sarkozy’s government has written to a US court urging it to stop a $125 million settlement between Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and US book publishers, warning that Google will have unfair control over European works and a “monopoly (on) digitising European orphan works without permission” (via Reuters).
This week Google sought to quell European fears over its books project Monday by promising to consult European publishers before publishing their works in the US and to appoint two Europeans to a new copyright-distributing registry, but the overture appears to have failed.
Google reached the settlement with US publishing groups in October last year after a long-running legal battle with publishers but it still needs approval from a US District Court, which rules next month. While the settlement specifically relates to what domestic US readers will be able to read, European publishers want more consultation on how much of their content will be made available.
A Google spokesman says (via FT.com): “We dont agree (with France), since the scope of our US settlement is limited to the US and comes under US law and only US readers will benefit.”
This is a central point for Google Books critics: the search giant has offered to consult before it publishes excerpts and entire books online, but France and Germany both argue the act of scanning and digitising them is illegal under EU law unless the permission is granted. Georges also complains that Google will have the power to determine which books are not included on its database so uncommercial titles less likely to generate sales could lose out, he argues.
France’s opposition comes as European media commissioner Viviane Reding steps up her efforts to win support for modernising EU copyright law.
To mark a day-long discussion in Brussels with Google and publishers on Monday—on Tuesday she meets with publishing groups one-to-one—Reding and internal market and services commissioner Charlie McCreevy released a statement stressing “the need to adapt Europe’s still very fragmented copyright legislation to the digital age, in particular with regard to orphan and out-of-print works.” Reding last week launched a public consultation on copyright law, which she hopes will lead to an agreement between publishers and Google similar to the pending US deal.
By Patrick Smith