A French court has found Google guilty of copyright infringement for its ongoing efforts to scan books and put the content online. The court imposed $430,000 in damages against the online behemoth and ordered it to remove online extracts of books published by French publisher La Martinière. The court also imposed a daily fine of $14,300, effective until Google pulls La Martinière extracts from its search results.
Though the French ruling applies only to France and only to a single publisher, it could provide a legal precedent for Google's increasingly controversial book scanning practice. Google began scanning books from US-based libraries five years ago and has now scanned about 10 million volumes; only 2 million of those books were scanned with the explicit consent of publishers, and about 2 million are no longer under copyright. The company has come under fire from authors and publishers for the scanning, and a recent settlement with several US-based book publishers has been widely panned both in the United States and abroad. The US Department of Justice recently warned that the settlement was anticompetitive, so Google is renegotiating.
In France, Google says it "regrets" the decision and will appeal. "French readers now face the threat of losing access to a significant body of knowledge and falling behind the rest of Internet users," said Google's Philippe Colombet, who heads up the company's French book scanning efforts. "We believe that displaying a limited number of short extracts from books complies with copyright legislation both in France and the United States and improves access to books."