European publishers give Google book deal cautious welcome

European book publishers gave a cautious welcome Monday to new proposals by Internet giant Google to clear the way for millions of books to be sold on-line.

"It is positive that the parties considered the concerns of European publishers and made some steps, however we want to analyse more thoroughly the new Settlement before giving a final comment," the Federation of European Publishers said in a statement.

The modified settlement, which runs to nearly 370 pages, seeks to address copyright and anti-trust objections raised by the US Department of Justice and others to the original version of the complicated legal agreement.

Google and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers reached a settlement last year to a 2005 copyright infringement case.

Under the settlement, Google agreed to pay 125 million dollars to resolve outstanding claims and establish an independent "Book Rights Registry," which would provide revenue from sales and advertising to authors and publishers who agree to digitize their books.

The Justice Department said the book-scanning project "has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits" but objected to the original settlement on copyright and anti-trust grounds.

One of its concerns was that the settlement, as originally drafted, would give Google sole authority over so-called "orphan works" - out-of-print books whose copyright holders cannot be found - and books by foreign rights holders.

The initial deal also caused concern in Europe where some publishers feared it could allow Google to publish European books, without authorisation, that were no longer available to US customers

The European publishers group said it also appreciated that non-English language works were also excluded from the deal.