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Merkel rips into Google Books

Angela's issues

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The German chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced concerns over Google's book-scanning effort, adding political weight to the complaints of rights holders.

In her weekly podcast, the recently re-elected Merkel said the search giant's digital library project presented "considerable dangers" to intellectual property.

The project's stated aim is to digitise and preserve all the world's written knowledge. It's unstated aim is to present all the world's written knowledge alongside contextual advertising.

"We reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection - like Google is doing," Merkel said.

"The government places a lot of weight on this position on copyrights to protect writers in Germany," she added, calling for more discussion of how Google might compensate rights holders.

Her intervention came ahead of this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the publishing industry's most important get-together, where Google Books was launched in 2004.

Google has battled similar criticism in the US, eventually agreeing to create a $125m rights registry. The courts are currently considering the legality of the settlement.

That scheme will only compensate American right holders however, and despite a legal challenge in the French courts and criticism from the EU - and now Merkel - Google continues its scanning and publishing online.

In an opinion piece for the New York Times on Thursday, co-founder Sergey Brin repeated Google's claims of benevolence.

"I wish there were a hundred services with which I could easily look at [an out of print book]; it would have saved me a lot of time, and it would have spared Google a tremendous amount of effort," he wrote, presumably atop a rather tall horse. ®

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