EU will examine Google Books project

By EDRi · June 3, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [EU wird Googles Buchprojekt prüfen |]

Macedonian: [ЕУ ќе го преиспита проектот Google Books |]

The German delegation submitted at the European Council meeting held in
Brussels on 28 and 29 May 2009, an information note asking EU to take action
against Google’s online library project, Google Books, a project targeting
the scanning of entire book collections of major libraries.

“This move has an impact on cultural and media policy that we need to put on
a European level,” said Culture Minister Bernd Neumann.

There is already a dispute between Google and US authors and publishers as
the publishing industry is concerned by the fact that scanning books without
authors’ permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Germany’s information note argues that many of the rights holders having
works that are scanned by Google are in the EU and that European copyright
law differs from the US one. The German delegation considers that Google is
using the excuse of a fair use exception to face copyright claims, an
exemption which doesn’t exist in EU member states.

The main concern is related to the necessity of obtaining consent given by
authors before scanning their works. “Google’s actions are irreconcilable
with the principles of European copyright law, according to which the
consent of the author must be obtained before his or her works may be
reproduced or made publicly available on the Internet” says the note.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has shown concerns regarding
competitivity issues: “Through digitalising millions of books without right
holders’ permission, Google has already gained a competitive advantage
against similar projects like Europeana and – who unlike
Google respect European copyright laws.”

The EU has immediately confirmed the launching of a formal inquiry which
will apparently focus on copyright matters and will look into the settlement
Google has with publishers and authors.

After Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers filed a law
suit against Google in 2004 arguing the giant was violating copyright by
displaying excerpts of books without the permission of the copyright
holders, a settlement reached in October 2008 raised criticism and is now
investigated by the US Justice Department on anti-trust grounds.

The settlement would let Google sell to other libraries access to its online
books and subscriptions to its entire library and the revenues would go to
Google, publishers and authors. The settlement gives authors until early
January to adhere to it and hence receive money for having their books
scanned or to opt out of the system by September 2009.

Anne Bergman-Tahon, director of the FEP believes that “millions of works
will never be claimed because these 300 pages of settlement are so
complicated.” Therefore, critics argue that when copyright holders do not
come forward, Google alone will have the rights to “orphan books” which,
according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal newspaper are
estimated at 50 to 70 percent of books published after 1923. Google will
hold monopoly under the circumstances and will be in the position to charge
as much as it wants for access to books.

On the other hand, Google stated that by its project it was giving an
eternal digital life to millions of books which are now out of print and
that it was “happy to engage in any constructive dialogue about the future
of books and copyright.”

EU may flex regulatory muscles against Google book deal (1.06.2009)

Germany wants EU to fight Google Books project (2.06.2009)

Council calls on Commission to examine Google Books project (2.06.2009)

EU states concerned over Google library plans (27.05.2009)

EU confirms Google investigation (31.05.2009)