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Google Found Guilty In French Copyright Case

A judge ordered Google to pay 300,000 euros to a French publisher, plus 10,000 euros per day until it removes extracts of the publisher's books from its database.

Antone Gonsalves

December 18, 2009

2 Min Read

A Paris court on Friday ruled that Google violated French copyright law in digitizing books, but it;s unlikely the decision will be the last word on the search engine's controversial book-scanning project.

A judge ordered Google to pay 300,000 euros, or roughly $430,000, in damages to French publisher La Martiniere, which pursued the case on behalf of a group of publishers, The Associated Press reported. In addition, Google was ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 euros, or $14,340, every day, until it removes literary extracts from the publishers' books from its database.

Google on Friday said it planned to appeal the ruling.

"We disagree with the judge's decision and will appeal the judgement," Google spokeswoman Gabriel Stricker, said in an e-mail sent to Information "We believe that displaying a limited number of short extracts from books complies with copyright legislation both in France and the U.S. -- and improves access to books."

Google argues that French readers are the biggest losers, since they won't have access to a large pool of knowledge. "If readers are able to search and find books, they're more likely to buy and read them," Stricker said.

The ruling is just the latest problem facing Google in its attempt to digitize books around the world from libraries and other sources. Even though Google only provides excerpts from books in search results and doesn't provide whole works without permission, the company has still come under fire from publishers and authors in Europe and the United States.

In the U.S., Google last year reached a settlement with authors and publishers who brought a lawsuit against the company for scanning books for its search index without permission from copyright holders. However, the deal is being renegotiated, because of opposition from the U.S. Justice Department. Prosecutors say the original deal probably violated antitrust laws.

So the latest ruling certainly won't be the last word on the company's ambitious project. Instead, the company is expected to continue to deal with opposition as it tries to navigate the separate legal systems of many countries, some of which have yet to clearly define the rights of copyright holders of books in the digital world, Michael McGuire, analyst for Gartner, said.

"We'll see these sorts of issues more frequently, not less frequently, going forward," McGuire told InformationWeek "This is not going to be smooth sailing."

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