It appears that France and Google have a relationship that’s “on the rocks.” Yet somehow, France has become the first and only country thus far to agree to a book deal with the online monster. Google’s book project, which seeks to digitize books that are out of print, has already copyrighted, the vast majority of the world’s books.
In fact, several days ago, Google closed on a deal with Hachette Livre, a publisher of French books, to turn thousands of retired books out from the ashes into timeless availability online. Hachette, the largest publisher in France, currently holds approximately 25% of the market share. Google expects to be up and running with the French version of its digital e-book store ‘Google Editions’ where a user will be able to find the e-book versions of Hachette’s titles by the end of this year. While a huge breakthrough for Google, this doesn’t relieve them of the many pending lawsuits, where publishers in France are claiming the company illegally scanned their books and uploaded them for sale.
France is not the only country that Google appears to be after. Indeed, Google is apparently seeking a similar agreement with U.S. publishers concerning the creation of e-versions of out-of-print books.
However, last March, a proposed settlement agreement between Google and U.S. authors and publishers was struck down by Federal Court Judge Denny Chin. The Court ruled that as to copyright and anti-trust grounds, Google appeared to be seeking a monopoly of the book market and that any such agreement would need significant revisions before it could pass .
Moreover, in a hearing held last week in New York, Judge Chin asked Google if it would revise it’s U.S. deal to look more like that of Hachette’s. In other words, instead of giving the company carte blanche with its access and allowance to digitize any out-of-print American book, allow the author or publisher to retain control over which books can be scanned and sold by Google; a privilege Hachette retained in its deal with the company. The legal representatives from Google refused to commit to such terms just yet. Therefore, Judge Chin’s time frame within which the parties must come to a revised settlement agreement is quickly ticking away. The next deadline is scheduled for September 15, 2011, in which Google, national publishers and authors, and portable book-reader owners are hoping for a mutually agreeable resolution.