The French government is fining Google the equivalent of $14,300 until it stops displaying excerpts from copyrighted literary works on its Google books service.
A Paris court also ordered the search giant to pay $430,000 in damages and interest to French publisher La Martiniere, which brought the case on behalf of a group of French publishers. Google attorney Alexandra Neri said the company would appeal.
The decision erects another legal barrier that may prevent Google from realising its 5-year-old goal of scanning all the world’s books into a digital library accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
Meanwhile, a US legal settlement that would give Google the digital rights to millions of books is in limbo because US regulators have warned a federal judge that the arrangement probably would thwart competition in the budding electronic book market and compromise copyrights.
Philippe Colombet, the head of Google’s book-scanning project in France, said the company disagrees with the court’s ruling.
“French readers now face the threat of losing access to a significant body of knowledge and falling behind the rest of Internet users,” Colombet said in a conference call with reporters. “We believe that displaying a limited number of short extracts from books complies with copyright legislation both in France and the U.S. — and improves access to books.”
Colombet declined to answer questions about whether Google would remove the books from its database or pay the fine. “We are going to study the judgment carefully over the coming days,” he said.
The judgment will have little or no effect on Internet users outside of France.
Google has scanned more than 10 million books worldwide since 2004, including 2 million with the consent of about 30,000 publishers, About 9,000 of those publishers are in Europe, Colombet said. Another 2 million books in Google’s library no longer are in copyright. Google has been only showing snippets from the remaining books while it tries to iron out copyright disputes.