For a little background on this intriguing issue, read my 11/18/10 post on Writers Thought for Today Blog .
In 2004, Google launched its “Books Library Project” in order to create a universal library online by digitising books and making it available for consultation on one of its application. This initiative was followed, the next year, by a copyright infringement case brought by the US Authors Guild and five majors US publishers.
Finally, in October 2008, they reached a settlement which has been amended some months later. The Google Book Settlement is not finalized yet, awaiting US Department of Justice approval. Nonetheless, the deal was the best they could get at the moment.
On the 17th of November, Google and Hachette Livre, the largest publisher in France and the No.2 trade publisher by sales worldwide, have reached an agreement authorizing Google to scan and sell electronically its out-of-print French language titles under the control of the publisher. This agreement covers about 50,000 French titles, including literature and nonfiction works, still under copyright protection.
The two deals are different: but why?
Judicial history is different, culture is different and political background is different
In December 2009, the search engine company was found guilty of copyright infringement by the High Court of First Instance of Paris for digitising the books of the French publisher La Martinière and putting extracts online without its written prior approval. The case was brought by La Martinière, the French publisher’s union (SNE – Syndicat national de l’édition) and a publishers and authors’ group (SGDL – Société des gens de lettre). All the more, several French major publishers, including Hachette, declared their intentions to sue Google for the same reasons.
These cases are related to the initial version of the Books Library Project. In this Google application, in order to answer to their search queries, users were allowed to read the full text of public domain books but only few paragraphs in titles still protected by copyright.