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A French court has found Google guilty of infringing copyright by digitising books without the approval of the publisher.

The search giant must pay €300,000 in damages to Herve de La Martiniere. Google will also have to pay a daily fine of €10,000 until it clears the books from its database, the BBC reports.

The three year court case will be closely watched - several other French publishers are taking similar action.

What the worldwide implications are is not clear. French copyright law does not recognise "fair use", which Google used in its defence. French publishers have always insisted that making a digital copy is still making a copy and therefore should be paid for.

The search giant has seemed surprised by the less than ecstatic welcome its book scanning project received in Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the scheme posed a serious danger to intellectual property and the European Union has also made uncomfortable noises.

Google is facing similar action across the pond from the Association of American Publishers and the US Authors Guild. ®

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