Google strikes deal to scan French books

Internet giant Google struck an agreement with France's biggest publisher Hachette Livre to scan thousands of out-of-print French books for Google's online library, the companies said on Wednesday.

Google's world book-scanning project has met resistance in France and other countries from critics who warn it undermines authors and book sellers and who have accused Google of trying to grab cultural heritage.

But the two companies said in a statement they had settled previous disagreements and "signed a memorandum of understanding that defines the terms for Google to scan Hachette Livre's French language books."

Hachette Livre chief executive Arnaud Nourry said the deal "enables us to break the deadlock in an honourable and positive way, while protecting the interests of all parties involved."

Nourry told an audio conference that "any major authors of French cultural heritage out of print will have that chance" to be digitised and made available online.

He estimated the total number of out-of-print French-language books still in copyright at about a million. Google said the agreement covers "many thousands of works" to which Hachette owns the rights.

Wednesday's agreement gives Hachette control over which books it allows Google to scan. The works will then be sold in electronic format or printed on demand.

The companies said the deal would benefit authors and readers, and booksellers would profit from print-on-demand sales. Hachette will share copies of the scanned books with France's National Library and other public bodies.

Google has already signed deals to scan national library holdings in Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.

Its book-scanning operations have met strong legal challenges in the United States and a number of French publishers have sued or threatened to sue Google for alleged unauthorised scanning.

Google and Hachette executives said Wednesday that the US and French disputes were not affected by the deal.

Nourry said Hachette had clashed with Google before over its book scanning but sought a deal so it could get access to the Californian giant's scanning expertise.

He said Hachette would control the pricing of the scanned material and would share revenues with Google but he declined to give details.

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