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EU waits for wise men to deliver digi-books plan

Culture ministers go away for a manger

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EU culture ministers have moved to block Google's book scanning juggernaut - by appointing some wise men to come up with a policy. Eventually.

The policy was thrashed out by Europe's culture ministers at a meeting last Friday.

French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand told Journal du Dimanche that the digitisation of books was too important to leave to private companies, and it was down to European culture ministers to assume their traditional role in upholding truth, beauty and freedom of expression.

Mitterand said, via the miracle of Google Translate, that "Today, I realized with joy that all ministers had the same goal: to find a European consensus. It's like a love story, when one realises that the other shares the same sentiments."

Mitterrand said that the ministers had made "great" progress, by deciding to set up a "committee of wise men" to articulate a European doctrine of digitisation.

He dodged the issue of exactly how unhappy Europe's culture bosses were about the Google approach.

But he insisted that there was no anti-Americanism at play - always a signal that Europe is looking to do the exact opposition to America.

He then further emphasised the utter absence of anti-Americanism by adding "I believe America isn't a monolith, and different opinions must be expressed. That's why I don't want the State to surrender before the markets."

Digitisation was too important to be left to one group or to laissez-faire, he said. Unless of course that group is the European Union.

The plan to appoint some wise men comes just over a month after EU Commissioners Viviane Reding and Charlie McCreevy issued a "communication" aimed at tackling the issue of digitisation, particularly of European libraries. The commission said it would consult on the way forward, particularly on the issue of orphan works, the subject of Google's controversial "settlement" with the US book industry.

Brussels of course has thrown its weight behind making the world's knowledge available by making 12 million pages of EU documents available, including the classic 1953 Report on the Activities of the Community - in French. ®

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