By Edward Nawotka
Google Books in France has been anything if not contentious. It was December last year when a Paris court ruled that Google violated French copyright law and ordered the company to pay €300,000 in damages and interest to French publisher La Martiniere for unlawfully scanning and posting portions of the publishers books on it’s database.
Then in January, France’s Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said the country would consider working with the company to digitize works at the nation’s libraries, but would not surrender the copyright, all the while forging ahead with their own digitization efforts – to which the country dedicated €753 million euros in November last year.
Today comes the news that the company has forged a “memorandum of understanding” to work with Hachette Livre to scan and make available in copyright, out-of-print titles – amounting to some 40 to 50,000 titles in all. Google will retain a copy for it’s “own non-commercial use,” while Hachette will retain the right to sell e-book editions and out-of-print copies in collaboration with Google Editions –- whenever it finally launches.
It is somewhat surprising that Hachette will enter into such a deal, considering the company already owns an e-bookstore, Numilog, which it acquired in 2008 and that already offers some 55,000 titles for download in a variety of formats. But earlier this year, Hachette struck a partnership deal with Ingram’s subsidiary Lightning Source to open a POD center in Maurepas, opened in partnership with Lightning Source – a likely source for the fulfillment of the aforementioned titles and may be a possible motivating factor behind the deal.
Hachette will continue to digitize and sell its own frontlist titles, according to Hachette Livre’s CEO Arnaud Noury. “We are quite capable of doing that alone,” he said.
Noury added, that the agreement “has nothing to do with a waiver of our claims concerning Google’s past practices, and everything to do with a new and exciting foundation on which to build a fresh start based on fairness, even-handedness and the acknowledgement of our rights and of those of our authors.” But said that “It enables us to break the deadlock in an honorable and positive way, while protecting the interests of all parties involved, including those of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, who will at long last have access to works scanned by Google.”
(Additional sources: Actualitté, Publishers Lunch)