Google book project angers France

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France has identified a new enemy in its battle to protect the language of Molière: the search engine Google, which French critics say is bent on an act of Anglophone cultural imperialism.

France has identified a new enemy in its battle to protect the language of Molière: the search engine Google, which French critics say is bent on an act of Anglophone cultural imperialism.

Moves by the US corporation to create a digital library scanning millions of books and putting them online have prompted fears in Paris about American domination of cyberspace. Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of the French National Library which houses 13 million books, this week published a book presenting a nightmare vision of Google being in a position to hijack "the thought of the world".

M. Jeanneney told the Associated Press news agency: "This could lead to an imbalance to the benefit of a mainly Anglo-Saxon view of the world. I think this is a danger." Google's project involves scanning books in four university libraries, Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan, and the New York public library.

The worry is that the "Google Print" project would rank sources in order of popularity, thereby giving prominence to Anglophone texts above those written in other languages.

The issue touches a raw nerve in France where intellectuals and politicians are alarmed at the diminishing influence of French as a global language. The government spends millions of euros subsidising French cinema to ensure its survival against Hollywood.

But Pierre Buhler, an associate professor at Sciences-Po in Paris accused M. Jeanneney of calling for the "first cultural war in cyberspace".

He wrote in the International Herald Tribune that less than half of Harvard's 15 million books are in English and that texts in other languages will be central to the Google project.

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