France plans its own rival to Google Books

France’s culture minister on Jan. 12 unveiled a plan to develop what he hopes will prove a uniquely Gallic competitor to Google Books, reports the Associated Press. Frederic Mitterrand didn’t rule out cooperating with the ubiquitous, U.S.-based search engine and said France was prepared to share files with Google under certain conditions. But he made clear that the company would have to play by France’s rules. Mitterrand said an existing French database of scanned documents, called Gallica, would serve as the foundation for a vast, new internet portal for French letters. Run by France’s national library, Gallica has fewer than a million items in its database and is mainly accessed by professionals, not the public. France aims to build up Gallica’s collection by cooperating with French publishers and private companies–including, perhaps, Google–on the onerous task of scanning and cataloging books. The Google Books project already has scanned and cataloged more that 10 million books as part of its project to create an online library accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Copyright issues have proved a thorn in Google Books’ side, however, with many authors and publishers worldwide contending its digital library violates copyrights. On the French site, publishers would be able to decide how much of books under copyright would be accessible online, and links would send users to online retailers. Deals eventually could be struck to swap books in French that have already been scanned by Google Books for books scanned in France, creators of the plan said…

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