Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bibliotheque Nationale de France Sells Out to Google - Livres Libres?

The question is not whether Google can digitise the world’s libraries, but who or what can stop them doing it.

Many choose to say no and do there own thing and one of these was France's National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF). However, they have now given in saying that it was a pure commercial decision – Google could finance it no. Now the BNF will be joining the others who have opened their doors and shelves to Google’s project and its scanners. The library claims that despite it needing some €80 million to digitise works from 1870 to 1940, only €5 million a year was forthcoming and so, Google with its deep pockets and thirst for everything written, stepped back in and made an offer that the French couldn’t refuse.

Google scans items for ‘free’ and has so far added about ten million works to its Books Search database, the great majority of them out-of-copyright works. Non-copyright books can be read for free, while only extracts are available from the rest. However some would say Google has a track record of ‘scan first and claim fair use later’. Despite the strong voices and arguments against the Book settlement in the US, Google is clearly only one step away from what some would say is a free pardon, securing the US market for chump change and rewriting copyright through the backdoor.

What is clear is that Google’s vision doesn’t stop at the eastern seaboard and they intend to attempt they same trick again in Europe. Does Google understand European bookselling and library culture or even care about it? Do they only see world domination of all information and with it the advertising and other revenues associated with it as their destiny? If money counts then many would say that Google will always win over heritage, values, culture and even the law.

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