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French publisher starts second round against Google

€9.8m of regrette

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Google has incurred the wrath of the French publishing industry yet again, with book publishers Albin Michel, Flammarion and Gallimard unleashing a €9.8 million law suit for unlawfully scanning 9,797 books.

Google’s impending march back into European courts comes as news emerged of a US$500 million fund being put aside to prepare for a possible antitrust settlement with the US Department of Justice.

French lawyers representing the trio filed a damages suit demanding €1,000 per title scanned without the publishers' consent for Google Book Search.

This is old territory for The Chocolate Factory, which was slayed by French publisher La Martiniere’s, which sued Google successfully for the same reason in December 2009. La Martiniere sought €15million in damages but was awarded €300,000.

The French publishers' union association, Syndicat National de l’Edition, and the French Writers Union, Société des Gens de Lettres, backed La Martinière in that litigation.

Google appealed the ruling but a verdict has yet to be heard. The Googleplex maintains that its Google Books project complies with French law and international copyright rules.

“We were surprised to receive this new claim ... we remain convinced of the legality of Google Books and its compliance with French laws and international copyright,” it said.

Six months ago Google, managed to strike a legitimate agreement Lagarderre’s Hachette Livre publishing to allow the scanning of out-of- print French books.

The Google Books Library Project is the search giant’s ambitious plan to make the collections of a number of major research libraries searchable online. If a book is under copyright, then the scan is meant to be limited to bibliographic information and some extracts, but if the copyright has expired, then the full book is made available.

The European legal system has shown little mercy for US tech giants overstepping their mark; Apple is a co-sufferer with Google. In February this year European antitrust enforcers scrutinized Cupertino’s new magazine publishing subscription policy over whether it may violate laws that regulate the sale of digital subscriptions in online marketplaces.

In that case, the European Newspaper Publishers' Association (ENPA) said "without direct access to their subscribers, this vital bond between newspapers and readers would be broken, to the detriment of both."

In March German magazine publishers lobbied the G8 nations to defend them against Apple’s subscription policy. Germany’s publisher associations FAEP and VDZ created a “Berlin Declaration” which claims that they are at risk from “both onerous business conditions and legislative threats”, “are faced with technological giants that may want to control the various dimensions of content distribution” and could lose “core competencies such as price setting, as well as their valued direct relationships with readers.” ®

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