France Slaps Google Over Book-Scanning Plans

PARIS — A Paris court ruled Friday that Google is breaking French law with its policy of digitizing books, handing the U.S. Internet giant a $14,300-a-day fine until it rids its search engine of the literary extracts.

A judge also ordered Google to pay $430,000 in damages and interest to French publisher La Martiniere, which brought the case on behalf of a group of French publishers.

Alexandra Neri, the attorney for Google, said the company plans to appeal the decision.

Google's plans to scan millions of books to make them available online has drawn criticism from publishers and libraries in both the U.S. and Europe.

Even if the case doesn't have much financial impact on Google or force a big change in its book-scanning strategy, it is a reminder that its ambitions are increasingly colliding with fears that the company is getting too powerful.

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The head of the French publisher's union said he was "completely satisfied" with the verdict.
"It shows Google that they are not the kings of the world and they can't do whatever they want," said Serge Eyrolles, president of France's Syndicat National de l'Edition. He said Google had scanned 100,000 French books into its database — 80 percent of which were under copyright.
Eyrolles said French publishers would still like to work with Google to digitize their books, "but only if they stop playing around with us and start respecting intellectual property rights."

Philippe Colombet, the head of Google's book scanning project in France, said the company disagrees with the judgment.

"French readers now face the threat of losing access to a significant body of knowledge and falling behind the rest of Internet users," Colombet said in a conference call with reporters. "We believe that displaying a limited number of short extracts from books complies with copyright legislation both in France and the U.S. — and improves access to books," Colombet said.

Colombet declined to answer questions about whether Google would remove the books from its database or pay the fine. "We are going to study the judgment carefully over the coming days," he said.

The judgment will have negligible impact on Internet users outside of France, and French books from publishers Google has agreements with will remain searchable, even in France. Colombet could not say how many French books Google has scanned overall, or how many French publishers it has agreements with.

He said Google has agreements with 30,000 publishers around the world, including 9,000 in Europe.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made catching up on France's digital delay one of the national priorities by earmarking over $1 billion of a $51 billion spending plan announced earlier this week for digitizing France's libraries, film and music archives and other repositories of the nation's recorded heritage.

Earlier this week a consortium of French technology companies announced a plan to create a book scanning project they said would be better than Google's, but only in three years time.
Google defended its publication of excerpts of copyright-protected material at a trial in September.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said that using select excerpts without permission "is a bad representation of the works."

U.S. authors and publishers also sued Mountain View, California-based Google. The parties have settled, but are renegotiating details after the U.S. Justice Department concluded that the original deal probably violates antitrust law.

The top U.S. copyright official and the governments in Germany and France also have raised objections about the settlement overstepping its bounds.