Since 2004, Google has been working on its Google Books programme which aims to make every book in the world available digitally. Because this ambitious scheme is in direct conflict with many existing copyright laws, Google has unsurprisingly faced numerous legal challenges as it seeks to win publishers and authors over to its brave new vision. A deal recently reached with SNE, a French publishing group, should now smooth its path in the francophone world at least, and marks the end of a six-year legal battle.
Although a court in Paris had originally found that Google’s book-scanning was an infringement of copyright and ordered it to pay €300,000 in damages to three French publishers, the parties have now reached an agreement which will allow authors to opt in to being digitised by Google. The publishers say they are confident that authors’ rights will be protected and that the deal marks a “positive advance for updating France's print heritage under copyright”.
Authors will be able to opt in to Google’s scheme or decline to take part. Google, for its part, has agreed to fund literacy schemes for French primary school children.
However, this is far from being the end of Google’s problems - last year US courts struck down a similar deal between Google and US publishers as being anti-competitive and in breach of authors’ rights.