back to article Google fined for book copyright

A French court has found Google guilty of infringing copyright by digitising books without the approval of the publisher. The search giant must pay €300,000 in damages to Herve de La Martiniere. Google will also have to pay a daily fine of €10,000 until it clears the books from its database, the BBC reports. The three year …


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  1. Roger Pearse

    Google will just block UK viewers and that will be all

    These lawsuits injure us all. Euro-publishers hate the web. If they could, they'd charge us all to use it. They'd like to tax us to use it.

    Meanwhile in the US google is digitising all the books ever published, and making them freely available, making maps and aerial views available.

    Back in Euroland, the greedy publishers are fighting hard to make sure none of us can see any of it. Thanks, guys!

    Few people realise just how much damage these greedy creeps have already inflicted on us. Google books doesn't really work over here. If you ever get access to the US version, you'll be amazed (a) what a vast extra amount is freely visible (b) that the search actually works! It's a marvellous project. The US isn't going to shut it down, a few commercial squabbles aside.

    But the EU will try to ensure that we in the UK can't see any of it, so that a handful of well-connected businessmen can make money.

    Third-world, isn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      maybe for you

      I look at it from the other point of view, imagine you are an author, selling a book. Along come google, scan it, and make it freely available to the world and his dog, meanwhile profiting from selling advertising off the back of it anyone who may have bought it, looks it up on google (yes i know many more will look it up on google than would have bought it, i'm not the riaa)

      Would you be happy? Even if google could be bothered to look you up, and didn't just claim they couldn't find you, they'd then only pay you peanuts for the privilege.

      If i scanned a book and made it freely available to the world, i'd be sued for copyright infringement! It's either OK for everyone to do it, or google need to stop! being a big company and profiting from it, makes it even worse!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Big Brother

        @maybe for you

        Actually, I'd be more pissed that my publisher stifled my work.

        Think of it this way. There is a reason the publishers DO NOT WANT authors to know how easy it is to digitize and distribute on their own. Imagine if ANYONE could write a book and distribute it without having to give a publisher a cut?

        The horror and scandal of it all.. people being able to sell their own work, and keep the profits! Aaaaaah

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          And you think

          people don't know this already?

    2. Richard 120

      So the alternative?

      Instead of a handfull of well connected businessmen making money (and authors) it'll be just Sergey and Larry?

      The greeds of the few outweigh the greeds of the many?

    3. Richard 68

      why should they copy my work without my say-so?

      @ Roger Pearse: As a writer who feeds and clothes his family by putting pen to paper, and then selling the things I write, permit me to disagree. I *don't* consider that protecting my copyright is 'third world'- whatever that means. And - for the record- the Society of Authors (which is the nearest thing we British hacks have to a trades union) agrees with me.

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge

      So, because it's Google

      they're free to violate copyright? And because a *FRENCH* court said "Non", Google would start blocking UK users?

      You're quite the idiot.

      1. Roger Pearse

        Why do you suppose that YOU are the intended beneficiary of this?

        As I understand it, we're not talking about books that are new, in print, etc. I am starting my own publishing business, and I have no concerns about Google stealing my work. If I did, I might feel differently.

        What we're talking about is books that have been out of print for yonks, but are still in copyright under the copyright laws brought in by major publishers. These grant copyright for life of the author plus 70 years -- a huge term. Most books are out of print in 20 years at the very outside. So we have this huge dog-in-the-manger situation, where books are unavailable and no-one is making money on it. Certainly not the author!

        We're talking about books that have really no commercial value, and are in practice unavailable to almost everyone. Google are changing this; and what we have is greedy publishers trying to stop it, unless they get paid blackmail.

        So authors don't benefit. Surely the first thing that we all want is for our stuff to circulate? But this is stuff that isn't circulating, and that the publishers don't propose to circulate.

      2. Roger Pearse

        It's already happened, mate!

        In the US, nothing is in copyright before 1923. When Google started Google books, they made stuff available on that basis.

        Then some greedies from the EU threatened law. "OK", said Google. "We just block access outside the US to all material after 1880. US people can continue to view it; EU people can get stuffed". And they did.

        How do you benefit from the US being able to read stuff you can't?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          If it was *ONLY* old stuff, people would care little.

          But it's not, and therefore they care more than little.

          "In the US, nothing is in copyright before 1923. When Google started Google books, they made stuff available on that basis."

          About keeping things under copyright, does the name "Disney" ring a bell? Oh, that would be one of your alleged European greedies, right?

    5. frank ly

      Hang On A Minute

      I love free stuff as much as the next freetard, I've got loads of it on my hard drives, but I don't for a second think that I have a right to possess it.

      Do you ever stop to consider that those books were written by someone working long and hard to write them, someone who's living depends on getting a cut of the sales, via appointed publishers?

      I may be morally suspect for grabbing what I can while I can, but you are intellectually suspect in every sentence of your comment.

    6. Bryce Prewitt

      Mind the undertow.

      This was sarcastic, right?

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Roger Pearse

      there are only two ways to interpret this commentator

      1) skilful satirist


      2) muppet

    8. Steve Roper

      To the naysayers who replied to Roger

      I work for a publishing company. Although my titular role is IT manager, I do other jobs within the company as well. Since I am also a competent graphic artist, the company has called upon me to design a number of book covers, including the covers for "Are All Men Dickheads?" by Michael Morel, "The Timeless World" by Michelle Stanton, and "The Ultimate Unity" by Nikola Dragovic. I receive a royalty based on sales of these books for the work I did designing these covers.

      What we've noticed is that a significant number of sales of our books comes from customers who found them on Google Books. Google does not give the customers the entire book, but what it does do is give the customer enough to see if they want it. That's driven a goodly number of sales to our company and the bookstores who buy from us.

      So as an artist who directly benefits from Google's efforts, I strongly deplore this action by the French government. If Google is forced to block access to Google Books in Europe, we will lose sales. Some 18% of our sales are to European countries, and a lot of those come from customers who found our books on Google Books. It's really high time these greedy, nihilist mainstream publishers got their heads out of their arses and started realising that companies like Google, and the Internet at large, are a boon, not a bane, and that by these actions they are hurting, not helping, the very publishers they claim to protect.

      I agree with you, Roger, It IS very third-world, the way Big Media and their cronies want to stifle markets for independent publishers like ourselves, because that is what this is really about.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        In which case

        it's your publisher that's going about this in the wrong way. Put teaser paragraphs out for Google to find and index, and attract people that way.

        Google's motives are suspect, to put it mildly, and the way it goes about is out of line. "We'll start scanning, and people who think they own copyright can come forward and enter into the deal we've already made. Oh, and for whatever book we've scanned, we're the sole publisher from now on".

  2. Bassey

    Quite right too

    If any of the rest of us started copying books and then making them publicly available the authors and publishers would be after us. Don't see why Google thinks its so different. Certainly if it was my work I'd be pretty pissed off that someone was using it to make themselves money without so much as asking.

    1. b1ff

      Book are not all being made publicly available

      Only books in the public domain are freely viewable. Copyrighted material is searchable but only snippets are viewable. Google is providing a free mechanism for authors to make their books easier to find, and perhaps lead to more sales. Some complain that Google is making money off their hard work. If you sell more copies of your book, what do you care? If an author doesn't want to make their product widely available, they are free to opt out. The opt-in vs opt-out is a bone of contention - as a consumer, I'd prefer that works be opt-out to provide the best possible search results. Authors who see Google as profiting from their own work take the opposite view. Perhaps Google should publish (if they have the info, might be handled by external perties) the sales that are generated by the searches, at least then interested parties would then have actual data to substantiate the arguments.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree

      Even thought I'd love to see all books available in digital format I'm against Google on this one.

      I don't understand why Google has such heavy handed approach to this issue. Here in USA they try to strike agreement with Author's Guild that would give them rights to digitize and sell all books. Well, some authors object to this.

      Why not make it voluntary and respect authors' copyrights? If this project is successful authors will line up to make their works available in Google store.

    3. Quirkafleeg

      Easy answer to that…

      Whatever money they make from this, the publisher and the author(s) should get a fair share of that. It seems likely to me that some would settle for that…

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Euro publishers have always hated new tech

    Just look at the printing press in the 15th century.... that was mainly the french wasn't it?

    Also perhaps these new times should raise a debate about value. Just because a book is worth X when it is first published, does not mean it is forever worth that.... how many people own an oreilly book that cost 30 quid only to find that 2 or 3 years on its almost worthless.

  4. Asylum Sam


    . " digitising all the books ever published, and making them freely available,.."

    So by that reasoning, I can start making AVIs of every film ever made and start publishing them for all and sundry to watch for free and then be "surprised" when people complain.

    You offering to fund my defence for project "Asylum Vids"? No? Thought not.

    Just because the US are stupid enough not to see the danger of allowing Google to have its own way doesn't mean the rest of the world can't see it and (thankfully) respond.

    Jolly Roger because thats what Google are, Privateers,

    1. Roger Pearse

      Better burn all your books just in case

      After all, someone somewhere might want a royalty for them, however old they are.

      Why on earth would you want to stop books written in 1920 and long out of print being seen? How does that benefit you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ethical questions aside

        They're doing this for the advertising. Me, I care about quality television and cinema. The ad breaks were shit in the 60's and 70's, when I first formed my view on them. They are worse now. Any quality viewing interrupted by - well, _anything_ actually, it just so happens in reality it is just the mindless shite that is advertising - is diminished almost to worthlessness.

        So you're starting a publishing co. Big deal: virtually the entire content of ITV and Channel 4 is absolute bollocks the world would be a better place without, and it is written, produced, published, whatever etc. They did, once upon a time have some appreciation of the content they were showing as to know more-or-less at what point to break for ads, but today there is no 'love' of drama, of documentary, or movies whatsoever and they break for ads at whatever point is most convenient for their schedule, even if it is part way through, say, an argument, a fight, a love scene, an exposition.

        So, how are Google going to make money from publishing these works? And what do you plan to publish: 'The Bumper Book of Big Brother!', 'X-Factor Behind The Scenes'? Come on, let's hear it. You twat.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Care to name

        a case of someone *retroactively* coming to collect royalties on books (as you're suggesting here) that they owned copyright on, for which those royalties had already been paid at purchase already?

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge


      Care to point to some tech on the North American continent that was relevant enough for 15th century publishers to hate? Note the careful use of "North American continent"; there was more that didn't exist there yet.

      And publishers *LOVED* those new-fangled printing presses, because those allowed them to do their business. It was the church which hated them, because they allowed wide and cheap distribution of ideas and knowledge, undermining the power of the church.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I like Google, I honestly do..

    .. but sometimes I think they go a bit far.

    Never thought I'd say this, but... Go Frenchies!

  6. N2 Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    I dont see what right Google has to publish copyright material.

    It would be pretty miffed if another search engine listed Googles source code

  7. Tone

    Third World - Not Really

    People in the third world have bigger worries and why should google be able to digitise something that somebody owns and clearly does not to assimilated?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    You can't dodge copyright by not showing to a class of people

    A French book, published in France, is controlled under French Law. This stops a US company from scanning it to show to Americans as well as Frenchman.

    At the end of the day Google is stealing books from their authors. If books are freely available online then the incentive to buy goes. It is precisely the same thing that Napster and the like got prosecuted over. Except this is a blatant land-grab by Google rather than a grass roots movement by users. Google intend to use this information to make vast sums of money from advertising, not benignly swapping music for no individual gain. The music swapping was shown to be illegal. This land-grab from Google should go the same way.

    I really hope every jurisdiction in the world starts to fine Google vast sums of money until they start obeying the law.

  9. xantastic

    China doesn't like sovereignty anyways ....

    Maybe our tribal nations should give up a little sovereignty and allow a global organization to create a copyright/IP structure that the global world can follow.

    Makes more sense than allowing someone posting something legally on the internet in the US to be sued for libel in Australia ...

  10. John Savard Silver badge

    One Law for All

    I'm sorry, but I don't see why there should be one law for Google and another law for everyone else. What part of "All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher." didn't they understand?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You forgot...

      ...that the great Mr. Schidt says that everybody's information belongs to him and anybody who wants to keep any information from him is a terrorist.

      Or alternatively you're totally right and Mr. Schidt is a twat who wants to make huge amounts of money out of other people's creative talents, but without any talent or even discernment on his part. "Lets just scan everything guys, you never know some of it might be good."


  11. Gannon (J.) Dick

    vive la différence

    If left to ourselves, Americans are lousy arbiters of good taste. Without a spoiler, we go for quantity over quality every time. There never has been and never will be an arbiter of culture with Global Superpower Status. If the French are able to go back to being their normal irritating, disagreeable selves, the Marshall Plan will have been worth it.

    Google tried to conquer Paris and failed. So what ?

    When it comes to control of IP, what's bad for Big Brother is good for both sides.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ka chink

    €300,000 for one book in French?... Wow, who needs to make books, just make lawsuits.

    If France doesn't recognise fair use then if you or I scanned the book for our own use then the lawsuit would be €300,000. Which is RIDICULOUS. How can MP3 players exist if fair use is not recognised! We'd all be paying out millions in fines for our MP3 rips.

    Get a f**ing grip France.

    IMHO, Solution for Google is to block all French language books, and let that literature in that language die the death it deserves. Who cares if it dies, it's a crap flabby language.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      You wouldn't know French copyright law

      if it came up to you and bit you in the arse.

      Total fail, squared.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fair Use?

      As usual the septics think that their laws should apply to the whole world. Fair use is a concept which does not exist in most legal systems.

      I'm getting totally bored with US corporations thinking that US laws should apply anywhere in the world that they operate. That is only fair if corporations from other countries can operate under their own laws when in the US. However merkins don't think like that do they? Protectionism is a way of life there, and they don't understand why the rest of the world don't like them. They're like the fat kid who wants to play with all the other kids toys, but doesn't want the other kids to play with his. You know the one. The one with no friends who never gets invited to parties.

  13. paulc

    Just pull the plug on France...

    they'll soon come back begging to be digitised...

    these publishers are clueless... the scanned books have links to allow purchase... provided the publisher has made stock available somewhere...

    you very rarely get to see the entire book online anyway...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One law for the rich

    If I walked into a bookshop and started photocopying their books I'd be straight down to see Mr Beaky. But a multi-billion dollar company does it and we're all supposed to grovel on our knees and thank them for making money off the back of other people's work?

    Sod that coming and going.

    Apart from anything else, it certainly proves that anyone storing their data on Google's cloud may as well forget about the old-fashioned idea of owning it. Google's walked over copyright en-masse; they're not going to give a toss about stealing your spreadsheet data.

  15. John Lilburne

    Copyright extended?

    Austen Henry Layard died in 1894,his book "Discoveries in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon" was published in 1853. The Google scan has "digitized by Google" plastered all over every fucking page, it makes the entire thing unreadable. Also they have a cover page saying that its for personal use only. Wankers they know full well its OOC and can be used for any purposes.

  16. Arcadian


    'What the worldwide implications are is not clear. French copyright law does not recognise "fair use", which Google used in its defence. French publishers have always insisted that making a digital copy is still making a copy and therefore should be paid for.'

    There are implications for the UK, it seems to me. UK copyright law recognises 'fair dealing', but it is much more narrowly defined than the US 'fair use' exceptions. It would not be legal for Google to digitize whole works without permission in the UK, any more than it is in France.

    And the Berne Convention, which guarantees international copyright protection, and which was cited in the French case, also protects UK publications.

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  19. Tony Paulazzo

    Get a grip...

    From Google books:

    >Many of the books you can preview on Google Books are still in copyright, and are displayed with the permission of publishers and authors. You can browse these "limited preview" titles just as you would in a bookstore, but you won't be able to see more pages than the copyright holder has made available.<

    From Me (copyright 2009).

    Hey, and guess what book is 'still' in copyright? H.G.Wells 'The war of the worlds', I mean, his families dinner table must be huge by now (aka struggling author attempting to feed his family - a noble quest for sure, but if in a 100 years they've not learned to feed themselves with their own skills and abilities...).

    And the French? c'mon, really? I would prefer to have every iota of my personal life splashed out over the interwebs, be tortured by MI5 and buried in sand to be eaten by army ants than agree with the French. Oh and that's not racism, just pragmatism.

    @ Gannon J Dick: Trublood, imho, the best tv for years, vs the UKs 'X factor'.

  20. Ian Tresman

    Scanned but not available?

    I didn't think that Google made scanned copyright book freely available, but just searchable and findable? People still have to buy the book to read it.

    The solution is simple. Remove such publications from Google Books, and potential customers will never know that they exist.

  21. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    @ Roger Pearse

    Please wake up to reality - copyright law does stink, but it IS the law.

    My mother writes, but thankfully not for a living or we'd have starved long ago. The reality is that most authors and most books make very little profit - if any. A few "big names" make it, but they are the exception.

    Writing a good book takes many months, if not years to do properly. When you've written it, it then takes effort and cost to get it into a presentable format and print it, distribute it, market it, etc, etc. It is right that people should be able to profit from their work, and that's why we have copyright.

    What I do think is wrong is the current terms. Authors life plus 70 years does seem rather long to me - and to most people. If you want to direct your bile at anyone, aim it at the people who allowed such generous terms.

    Given the current law, what Google are doing is illegal<period>. Unless they get permission from the copyright holder, then they are breaking the law. What is clear from the way they have approached the process in the US is that they have no intention whatsoever of trying to find any copyright holders - they intended to just go ahead and let copyright holders come to them when the results are a fait acompli. I think most copyright holders on out of print books would consider allowing the works to go on Googles books IF it was on equitable terms. Googles terms aren't equitable - they are simply that Google will make money, a select few authors in the US will get a small share, and anyone else will get nothing. And just for good measure, Google will have sewn up the market such that no-one else would stand a chance of setting up a competing scheme that actually DID pay the copyright holder a share of revenues.

    Chances are that, hopefully not for a long time, I'll inherit the copyright in mothers works - which in cash terms are worth very, very little (unless by some freak happening, one of them got picked up and made into a film - I'm not holding my breath !) What I'll do then I don't know. What I do know is that I'd be mightily annoyed to have someone come along and just take the works, profit from them, and hand over nothing in return. If they offered to share any profit then I'd probably go along with it - and I could even save them the cost/effort of producing an imperfect scan by handing over the digital files originally used for printing.

  22. Malkav

    Google Books Win

    Google books defeat? Hardly.

    Google can do a few things:

    1. Remove the works that the complaint was about.

    2. Prove how useful their system is at selling copies of book.

    3. Rub it it in the faces of the French authors (and Mr. Murdoch for good measure).

    4. Make them pay to have those works added to their index.

    Remember, they are not selling copies -- they're allowing electronic versions to be searched (selling ads in the mean time) and later bought if they interest the reader. People that complain about this service are just pissed they don't have enough presence to do it themselves. So, they complain about a successful business and try to wring more money than they deserve out of it. If these people were so sure their books were worth something, they'd pay google to index them and make them fully searchable so more people find and buy them.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Imagine the books are movies!

    If the books were movies!

    It would be like google ripping every dvd they could get thier hands on, then putting a digital version online, all without the RIAA and the other blood sucking scum giving them permission!

    Now can you imagine the uproar that would cause!

    Goggle think they can get away with it because book publishers are so divided.

    Its akin to beating up and robbing homeless people, google dont think anyone would complain and if they did who would care!

    Google is the best place to find torrents and stolen books!

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