Writing a new chapter for French books

Monday, June 11, 2012 | 11:59 AM

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For the past six years, we have been embroiled in a debilitating dispute over digitisation with French book publishers and authors. Today, we are announcing agreements that end all our legal battles. We are forging partnerships that we believe will put France ahead of the rest of the world in bringing out-of-print works back to life.

Much of the world’s information is found on the printed page. But almost 75 percent of the world’s books are out-of-print and unavailable except to the lucky few who can find old copies in libraries. In order to make this treasure available to everyone, anywhere in the world, we digitised millions of out-of-print works in U.S. libraries.



Until now, legal challenges, not only in France, but also in the United States, have kept us from realizing our goal. French authors and publishers sued us, separately, for copyright violations back in 2006. U.S. authors and publishers also sued. Although we reached an agreement with the American Author’s Guild and Association of American Publishers in 2008, a U.S. District court in New York last year rejected the agreement.

In France, however, we have found a way to move ahead. Both the French Publishers Association (Syndicat national de l’édition) and the French Author’s Association (Société des gens de lettres) have withdrawn their suits.

In this win-win solution, publishers and authors retain control over the commercial use of their books – while at the same time, opening the possibility for out-of-print books to reach a wide audience. We remain hopeful of reaching a solution in the US allowing us to make the world's books searchable and discoverable online.

This agreement represents a new step in our broad support for French culture. Over the past two years, we have signed agreements with several French collecting societies representing musicians, screenwriters and other creators. Our international culture center is based in Paris.

We are taking other measures as well to support French publishing. As part of this agreement, we will sponsor publishers’ new Young Reading Champions Program, which promotes the pleasures of reading among young people. We are also supporting the Publishing Laboratory - le Labo de l'édition - which helps publishing startups and traditional partners test digital technologies.

Our project with the authors is equally exciting. We will support their initiative to build a comprehensive database of published writers, a process that will help identify copyright holders and help them receive payment for their works.

Our hope is that these partnerships will boost the emerging French electronic book market. They make France a pioneer in spreading knowledge in the digital world. Watch this space for more progress on putting the written page online – and keep on reading.

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