Paris -- Since long Google Inc.'s unrelenting effort to digitize the world's books that has been met with a lot of resistance has now finally inched forward Monday, as the search giant said it has endorsed a deal with two French organizations representing authors and book publishers, ending six years of litigation over its unauthorized scanning of their books and opens a new chapter in the way to sell out-of-print French books online, the New York Times reported today.
Both in the United States and France, Google has sparked countless lawsuits in an attempt to bring out-of-print publications to their search archives. But, finally the search engine leader and writers have ended their lengthy dispute over issue of publishing book snippets, making France the first country to scan out-of-print works still under copyright.
As part of the deal, the Syndicat National d'Edition, representing publishers, which had been suing Google for copyright infringement said it had agreed to withdraw its lawsuit, the last such pending suit in France after other publishers withdrew theirs last year.
Moving forward, the deal between Google and France's national publishers association have also discussed about a framework agreement that would enable French publishers and authors to sell digital versions of books Google has scanned, with Google taking a cut of the revenue, the groups and Google said. This momentous framework agreement will contribute to a growth in the range of e-books available, the SNE said.
In addition, individual publishers will have to sign their own deals with Google to start selling books. This means France is the only country with an industry wide book-scanning agreement in force to cover works that are out of print but still under copyright, an issue that continues to plague U.S. Authors.
Moreover, publishing giant Hachette was the first to take the initiative in November 2010, the same year that it had boiled down its stand at the SNE-organized book fair, the Salon du Livre de Paris, to a token presence barely a tenth the size of previous years. It allowed Google to scan its out-of-print books and sell them as e-books, while retaining the right to create print-on-demand editions from the scans.
Also, Google prudently coughed up an undisclosed amount of cash to sweeten the deal. The SociA(c)tA(c) des Gens de Lettres (SGDL), which represents authors, also endorsed a similar deal with Google, which will fund the society's creation of a database of authors and rights holders, as well as a youth-reading program, something sure to be of use to Google as it seeks authorization for its scanning project. Equally useful will be to know which books may be considered “orphan works” because their author or publisher can no longer be traced.
But the latest pact is merely a recognition of a growing movement among SNE members to endorse individual deals with Google to scan and sell their out-of-print back catalog. However, this latest decision heralds a bit of good news for Google's library-digitization program, which began in 2004 and has scanned tens of millions of books, but has also been saddled with legal challenges.
Remember that Google is currently stalked by a lengthy copyright infringement lawsuit with U.S. content creators over the company's Google Books practices. Most recently, a U.S. federal judge granted class-action certification to a seven-year-old lawsuit that targets its efforts to scan books in universities and libraries. U.S. authors claim that Google cannot legally scan entire books under the “fair use” doctrine of U.S. copyright law.
However, Monday's settlements does not in any way affect the ongoing litigation and the failed settlement in the U.S., Philippe Colombet, head of Google Books in France, said in a tele-press conference Monday. But the company said it was hoping the deal in France would add positive momentum.
“Google is open to a variety of agreement options in the U.S.,” Mr. Colombet said, “including deals like this one.”