France to Google Books Deal: Go Away or I Shall Taunt You a Second Time
Google claims that its Book Search settlement will “bring back to life millions of lost books in a way that serves the interest of all.” And if that truly is its goal, the company is going to have to put its own Brobdingnagian self interests second to those of others–if only for a little while.
To wit, Google’s announcement Monday of a number of concessions to the European Union, which seems a bit dubious of the whole thing. In a letter to several publisher associations in Europe, the company invited two non-U.S. representatives to join the board that will oversee the book rights registry that is to distribute royalties from digital book sales under terms proposed by the settlement. The company also promised to seek their permission before digitally publishing European works still protected by copyrights.
“Books that are commercially available in Europe will be treated as commercially available under the Settlement,” Google (GOOG) explained. “Such books can only be displayed to US users if expressly authorised by rights holders.”
Quite a concession, given Google’s plans to create a so-called “last library,” but clearly necessary with opposition to the deal abroad so pronounced. Already, Germany has filed an objection to it, saying the agreement would “irrevocably alter the landscape of international copyright law.” And now France is about to do the same.
“Google will have a monopoly digitalising European orphan works without permission,” Nicolas Georges, director for books and libraries at the French Culture Ministry, told Reuters. “Google has the power to determine which work will be in its database or not. For example, some works that are not commercial may be removed by Google.”
Seems Google’s effort to establish a de facto worldwide copyright regime isn’t going to be quite as easy as the company had hoped.