June 12, 2012

Google finally gets an entire publishing industry to cooperate, and it’s in … France?


Google can’t seem to get out of court in the U.S. — it’s been there since 2007, when it was first sued by pretty much the entire book industry for copying books that were copyright-protected — but in France, the company has struck a deal with book publishers that will let it do what it wants to do: scan copyrighted books like a motherfucker.

The company announced yesterday that it had struck a deal with the French publishing industry that would “allow Google to scan and sell copyrighted but out-of-print French books” while giving publishers and authors “control over what will be made available,” according to a Publishers Weekly report by Andrew Albanese.

As a New York Times report by Eric Pfanner details,

The French Publishers’ Association and the Société des Gens de Lettres, an authors’ group, dropped lawsuits in which they contended that Google’s book-scanning here violated copyright. Google agreed to set up a “framework” agreement under which publishers would be able to offer digital versions of their works for Google to sell.

… The deal is modeled on agreements that Google struck separately with two leading French publishers, Hachette and La Martinière. Under all of these agreements, the publishers retain control over many conditions of the book-scanning project, including which titles are made available.

A Wall Street Journal report by Sam Schechner adds that the “framework” …

… will allow French publishers and authors to sell digital copies of books Google has scanned, with Google taking a cut of the revenue, the groups and Google said. Individual publishers will have to sign their own deals with Google to start selling books.

Google also coughed up an undisclosed amount of cash to sweeten the deal. As part of the agreements, Google will financially support the creation of a database of works for authors and rights owners, as well as a youth-reading program.

The terrific French book news blog, ActuaLitté, offered a detailed breakdown of the deal (translated here courtesy of paidContent):

Jeff John Roberts, in the paidContent report, makes that last point by Frédéric Mitterand another way: He says the deal makes “France the first country to implement a comprehensive national strategy for digitizing its literary output.”

Meanwhile, Albanese, in the PW report, notes that the deal is similar to the ”opt-in” arrangement suggested by Judge Denny Chin in place of the settlement between Google and the U.S. industry he vetoed last year.

While seeing this as a positive development for authors because it makes out of print books available, none of the stories comment on the fact that it makes them available from someone who broke the law to steal them … and will remain the sole owner as a kind of private enterprise Library of France …


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives