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Google goes on trial for digitising books

books Updated: Sep 26, 2009 12:02 IST
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Internet search engine giant Google went on trial in Paris on Thursday on charges of copyright infringement and forgery in its attempt to digitise millions of the world's books without prior authorisation.

The trial was provoked in 2006 by the head of the publishing group La Martiniere, Herve de La Martiniere, who is now backed by the 530-member French Publisher's Association (SNE) and the Society of Authors (SGDL).

The daily La Tribune reported that Google plans to argue that a French judge has no jurisdiction in the dispute, because it is based on American law; digitising is not copying; and that posting brief excerpts from books online is permitted under French law. The SNE's Christine de Mazieres told the daily that about 100,000 French books had been digitised by Google without authorization.

Resistance to Google's BookSearch programme - which scans books and allows people to read and research an entire published work online - has been particularly strong in France.

However, the country's second largest library, in Lyon, is cooperating with Google and lets its books be scanned. And the French National Library is currently negotiating with the internet giant, which offers to digitize books for libraries at no cost.

On Friday, the US Justice Department urged a court to reject a $125-million settlement between Google and authors and publishers that would have enabled the California-based company to expand the availability of digitised books on the internet.

The agreement likely violated copyright and antitrust laws, the Justice Department argued. A decision on the agreement had been set for October 7, but that is now likely to be delayed.

The controversial agreement came after Google had scanned some 10 million books, more than half of them without taking account of copyright.