French publisher Gallimard to sue Google
30.03.10 | Barbara Casassus

Gallimard and two other French publishers plan to sue Google for scanning books without prior permission. The move was announced at the Paris Book Fair by Gallimard chief executive Antoine Gallimard.

Gallimard told an audience at a conference on digitisation that “contacts with Google at the beginning of the year led us to hope for progress on this issue, but nothing has happened,” the French trade weekly Livres Hebdo reported. Gallimard’s legal director Brice Amor told The Bookseller that the hope was that other publishers would join them.

French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said at a press conference today (30th March) that he understood publishers’ and authors’ exasperation over “certain practices (by Google) that remain”. But he added that he would not act to defuse the situation because it was a question of private law. He said that he intended to visit Google at its US headquarters before the end of July.

In 2006, Gallimard was the first French publisher to demand that Google withdraw its titles from the US firm’s database. After a pause of six months, Google resumed scanning Gallimard titles and has continued ever since: “We have asked Google for a complete list of our titles it has scanned so far, but have had no reply,” Amor said.

Google was found guilty of scannning La Martinière/Seuil titles by a French court last December, but has appealed the verdict.

Mitterrand was announcing 14 measures to boost reading in France at a cost of about €100,000 a year. The measures will involve libraries and local authorities, and will include wider library internet access and digitisation, a new reading festival “A vous de Lire” from 27th to 30th May, a free book and reading guide for new babies, and a national conference on reading in the autumn.

A working group within the Book Council will be set up to implement proposals on library book digitisation that were presented by French National Library (BNF) president Bruno Racine last week, Mitterrand added.

Promoting reading was an “absolute political priority for me”, and its decline was “absolutely not irreversible” he said. Education Minister Luc Chatel announced a series of measures to combat illiteracy in France at the fair yesterday.

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