By Francois de Beaupuy and Helene Fouquet
(Bloomberg) — President Nicolas Sarkozy said he'll block a Google Inc. (GOOG) project that scans books and makes an online version available in order to protect France's "heritage."
"It's out of the question to be deprived of our heritage for the benefit of a large operator, however sympathetic, however important and however American they may be," Sarkozy said today at a round table meeting in the town of Geispolsheim, in eastern France. He suggested that a share of a multi-billion euro economic investment plan he will unveil Dec. 14 could be used to digitalize French books.
Google's plan to scan millions of books to create a digital library was challenged in a French court in September by a publisher, Editions du Seuil, which says the project violates national copyright laws. Sarkozy joined opponents of the plan who say a U.S. corporation shouldn't be allowed to digitalize French books just because France lacks funds for such a project.
Opposition to Google's $125 million agreement with publishers and authors to establish a "Book Rights Registry" to identify and pay copyright holders has pushed the Mountain View, California-based company to modify the settlement to take account of international criticism.
Google has scanned over 100,000 French works still protected by copyright, according to the Syndicat National de l'Edition, one of the two trade groups that have joined Editions du Seuil's complaint. The court will rule on Dec. 18.
To contact the reporters on this story: Francois de Beaupuy in Geispolsheim, France at firstname.lastname@example.org; Helene Fouquet in Paris at email@example.com.
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