Friday

24th Nov 2017

Focus

EU states concerned over Google library plans

  • The British Library reading room: Is Google a threat? (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

EU competitiveness ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday are expected to ask the European Commission to take a closer look at Google's plans to create a digital library amid fears that European intellectual property rights are being breached

The issue will be raised by Germany, which also alerted the culture ministers to the potential problem when they met earlier this month.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"Germany wants to raise awareness of Google's plans to digitalise books," said a German diplomat, with France, Austria and the Netherlands also said to be keen to have the issue put on the table.

The internet search giant, which says it wants to democratise knowledge by helping everyone have instant access to a vast library of books, began its mammoth book scanning project in 2004.

A year later, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers filed a class-action law suit, saying Google was violating copyright by displaying excerpts of books without the permission of the copyright holders.

The company settled in October last year, but the agreement raised a whole new set of questions, which are currently being investigated by the US Justice Department on anti-trust grounds.

The settlement, which still has to be finally approved by court in October, would allow Google to sell access to its online books as well as subscriptions to its entire library to other libraries. Google already has around 7 million books that can be accessed through its book search. The revenue would go to Google, authors and publishers.

But critics of the settlement, which gives authors an early January deadline to be eligible to receive cash for having their books scanned or a September 2009 deadline to opt out of the scheme entirely, say it effectively gives Google the power to single-handedly privatise libraries.

Orphan books

They argue that Google alone would then have the rights to "orphan books" where no copyright holder comes forward. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal newspaper estimated that orphan books make up 50 to 70 percent of books published after 1923.

Under this monopoly situation, say critics, the internet company would be able to charge what it likes for access to its books.

For its part, Google has said it is giving an eternal digital life to millions of books that have gone out of print.

Google's plans have implications for EU intellectual property rights and anti-trust law, say EU diplomats.

One EU diplomat said the plans "are not entirely in the interests of European authors." He added that under EU law Google would have to "ask European copyright holders for permission first."

The Federation of European Publishers said it would be happy if the European Commission looked into the "competitivity aspects of this."

"This is against any copyright rules that exist where a user makes a request first for material and not present it as a fait accompli," Anne Bergman-Tahon, director of the FEP, told EUobserver.

Speaking from Prague, where she said she was explaining the problems to a Czech audience, Ms Bergman-Tahon said "millions of works will never be claimed because these 300 pages of settlement are so complicated."

Germany outspoken critic

Germany has long been an outspoken critic of Google's plans in this area.

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday (27 May) Justice minister Brigitte Zypries said Berlin is considering whether to take part in the New York court case as Amicus Curiae - a friend of the court.

"It is not about taking participating as a party on the legal dispute but making the court aware of certain legal aspects," said the minister.

The Google plan raises problems for the European digital library, Europeana, launched last year, another EU diplomat pointed out.

Both libraries should be "on a level footing when it comes to intellectual property rights," noted the diplomat.

Currently, Europeana consists only of works in the public domain and is free to access.

At the moment, the Google question is "not a major issue" for member states, but they are "seeking more information from the commission," said a diplomat.

For its part, Google said it was "happy to engage in any constructive dialogue about the future of books and copyright."

Calling the US agreement "groundbreaking," Google spokesperson Bill Echikson said it "creates a new marketplace for both European authors and publishers to sell their works."

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

UK has 10 days to make Brexit progress

British prime minister Theresa May was told to make progress on the financial settlement, and Ireland, before talks can move to the next phase.

EU still giving gas projects 'fast-track' status

The European Commission published on Friday a list of projects of common interest, which receive preferential treatment. Environmental lobbyists accuse the Commission of trying to fool the public with number games.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Germany remains 'active' in EU
  2. Work with Israel, Egypt on gas exploration, says Commission
  3. Only seven EU states have 'advanced' stage climate plans
  4. EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries
  5. EU approves joint Irish electricity scheme
  6. German president to launch 'Grand Coalition' talks
  7. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  8. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  9. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  10. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  11. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  12. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition