France Willing to Work with Google Books

Frederic Mitterrand

France has had a test relationship with Google over the last few years, in particular decrying Google Books as little more than an effort to copy French books and French cultural heritage and distribute it to the world without rights or compensation. Rather than be left out of the digital media revolution, France has proposed launching its own book and art digitization effort to keep control over its own cultural heritage…but now French Culture Ministoer Frederic Mitterrand says he’d be willing to work with Google Books.

According to Le Monde, Mitterrand aims to propose a partnership with Google that will involve a transparent exchange of documents and assets “with respect for the authors.”

France has been investigating ways to bring its cultural and historical legacy into the digital age, with an eye towards digitizing books as well as bringing art objects online so they could be viewed from around the world via the Internet. Google Books would seem an obvious partner for such a venture, since the company already has experience with large digitalization projects at large universities and libraries; Google has also inked a deal with the a large collection in the French city of Lyon to scan antique books. But the deal leaves many in France cold: as part of the deal, Google has right to the scanned versions for 25 years, and many French look at that deal as a misappropriation of their culture. A French court has also recently ruled that Google Books violated French copyright by scanning books.

Mitterrand emphasize that any deal with Google would involve France retaining control of the digitization process, and retaining distribution rights to the resulting digital content.

Mitterrand ignited controversy with a 2005 “autobiographical novel” in which he admitted to paying for sex in Bangkok male brothels; the issue recently re-emerged when Mitterrand protested the arrest of film director Roman Polanski for having had sex with a teenage girl.