Google Ends Legal Dispute With French Authors Over Scans

Google Inc. (GOOG), owner of the world’s largest search engine, ended legal disputes with a French publishing trade group and a French authors’ association over the U.S. company’s scanning of books.

The Syndicat National de l’Edition, which represents more than 600 publishers, and the SGDL Society of Authors agreed with Google to end litigation over Google’s scanning of copyright- protected books without permission, according to two statements today. This means Google no longer faces French legal action over book scanning, according to Bill Echikson, a spokesman for the Mountain View, California-based company.

Google is working to improve its relationship with French industry groups and regulators after disputes over privacy and access to copyrighted content. It has also settled legal disputes with the Hachette Livre unit of Lagardere SCA (MMB), the country’s biggest publisher, and La Martiniere Groupe that allowed it scan out-of-print works that are still copyrighted.

“We’ve agreed a model to get out-of-print books back into print,” Echikson said in a telephone interview of the agreement with SNE. While Google’s settlement with the publishers’ group doesn’t contain any financial terms, it will separately sponsor a school-reading program it runs, he said.

Google plans to sell some of the scanned copyrighted works as electronic books and will share the proceeds with publishers under individual deals where the “majority of the revenue comes to the publisher,” said Philippe Colombet, Google Books’ strategic partner development manager in France.

E-Book Market

“We believe that as the e-book market matures” the focus will shift from new titles and bestsellers to older works generating revenue, Colombet said in a conference call with reporters.

Colombet said Google was “still talking” to French publishers that last year dropped a 9.8 million-euro ($12.3 million) lawsuit against Google over book-scanning. Editions Albin Michel SA, Editions Gallimard SA and Flammarion made the decision in order to resume negotiations to reach a deal on scanning copyright-protected works for Google’s digital library.

Google will financially support the SGDL Society of Authors’ development of a database of book authors and right- owners to settle legal proceedings over the scanning of copyright-protected books for its digital library, the company and the SGDL said in a joint statement. Google declined to disclose the financial terms of the support.

The SGDL, which represents 6,000 French and French-speaking authors, said the agreement will reaffirm the position of authors and help them protect their rights online, SGDL President Jean-Claude Bologne said in the joint statement.

Scanning Project

A Paris court ruled in 2009 that Google’s book-scanning project violated some publishers’ and authors’ copyrights. Google has argued that the display of snippets of text is fair use under copyright law.

The search-engine owner this month lost a U.S. court bid to dismiss claims by groups including the Author’s Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers in two lawsuits over electronic books.

The suits stem from Google’s plan, announced in 2004, to digitally scan books from public and university libraries to provide short snippets of text to people who use its Internet search engine. It said in a February court filing that it has scanned more than 20 million books.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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