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French culture minister flames Google over book scan plan

Mitterrand tells Google to go conjugate itself

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Frederic Mitterrand delivered another Francoslap to Google yesterday, threatening to eject the book-devouring search giant from the effort to digitise the French National Library.

Mitterrand, France’s culture minister, said that the firm had to radically rethink its approach to its book scanning crusade, the FT reports, if it wanted to get its hands on France’s cultural treasures. These presumably range from government papers to medieval manuscripts and Napolean’s naughty poetry.

His fusillade came on the back of an independent review which said the deals Google has struck with Europe’s national libraries deliver more benefit to Google than to the libraries. Google gets access to precious collections and a treasure trove of out of print and public domain works. The national libraries get, er, their books scanned.

Mitterrand slated Google, saying it was demanding unreasonable control over the works it scans, including exclusivity periods of 20 to 25 years.

The review recommends France turn its affections to its own book scanning project, a European effort, or strike a public/private partnership with Google.

Mitterrand’s grand assault comes a week after his boss, Nicolas Sarkozy called for Google's ads to be taxed more heavily, so that France's culture mandarins can shovel more money into online Gallic cultural output, and compensate French artists for online piracy.

Whether Paris latest pronouncements will do much to stop the Google juggernaut remains to be seen. However, it is heartwarming to see France rush to its traditional barricade tradition of thumbing its nose and other body parts at US cultural and business institutions. ®

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