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France proposes digital book swap with Google

PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - France wants to start a digital book exchange with Internet giant Google GOOG.O to solve a spat over online publication of the world's literary heritage, according to a government report published on Tuesday.

The report, commissioned by France’s Culture Ministry, is the latest in a slew of Web policy initiatives that has at times pitted the government against private companies, including a proposed tax on online advertising [ID:nLDE606229].

The report said the proposed swap would be mutually beneficial, but unlike other comparable deals would not carry any exclusivity clauses in favour of Google.

“French books would be referenced by Google Books, while the national platform would benefit from works already digitised by Google, especially those provided by foreign libraries,” said the report, which was published on the ministry’s website.

In an interview with newspaper Le Monde, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand praised the idea and said if Google was not interested, France could approach other private operators.

Several libraries around the world have struck partnerships with Google. Others are waiting for legal tussles over the digital use of copyrighted books to be resolved before considering a deal.

While the report said Google’s project had given a “decisive impulse” to dreams of a global online library, it criticised existing accords as being too generous to the firm.

“The length of the exclusivity clauses is excessive,” it said, citing 20 years as the period of reference in most contracts with Google. “(This) can run counter to the aim of libraries to provide access.”

France intends to use part of a national loan to boost public online libraries such as Gallica (gallica.bnf.fr/) and Europeana (www.europeana.eu), but those sites only offer about 145,000 and 200,000 digital books each.

Google has so far scanned 10 million books through its partnerships with libraries. It displays searchable snippets of books in copyright and whole texts of out-of-copyright works.

In December, a French court ruled that this way of digitising books and putting extracts online constituted a violation of copyright. [ID:nLDE5BH1AI] (Editing by Sharon Lindores)

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