Google Books unlikely to get easy ride in Europe

Google's plans to scan millions of books and make them available online is unlikely to advance smoothly in Europe despite concerns about trailing the...

Google's plans to scan millions of books and make them available online is unlikely to advance smoothly in Europe despite concerns about trailing the US in the digitisation of culture.

On the first day of a series of debates on the topic, European commissioners Viviane Reding and Charlie McCreevey acknowledged the need to adapt Europe's fragmented copyright legislation.

"It is time for Europe to turn over a new e-leaf on digital books and copyright," they said in a joint statement.

"If we are too slow to go digital, Europe's culture could suffer in future," they said.

But yesterday's joint statement coincided with an announcement by France that it will formally oppose the US settlement that Google needs to go ahead with its digitisation plan, according to the Financial Times.

Although a 2005 class-action lawsuit by authors and publishers against Google led to $125m settlement and agreement on profit sharing, the agreement still needs US court approval.

The New York judge due to rule next month on the settlement is accepting arguments from parties affected by the deal that could affect the ruling.

France's objection to the US agreement on the grounds that it will undermine French authors' rights comes a week after Germany filed a similar objection.

Germany's submission said that the US agreement will "irrevocably alter the landscape of international copyright law".

Google has dismissed the objections because the settlement affects the US only, but commentators have said France and Germany's position is likely to affect the European debate on copyright.

The debate in Brussels is expected to continue this week as policymakers and interest groups meet to discuss the possibility of a framework to enable Google to scan European libraries.

According to the joint statement by EU commissioners Reding and McCreevey, the challenge for EU policymakers is to ensure a regulatory framework that enables a rapid roll-out of services in Europe similar to those made possible in the US by Google's agreement with rights holders.

Following this week's meetings, the EC will report back on its findings to the European Parliament and the Council, the statement said.

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