Hachette Livre, the largest book publisher in France, has reached a book-scanning agreement with Google. According to The New York Times report, “Google signed an agreement with the publisher Hachette Livre under which tens of thousands of French-language books will be pulled out of ink-on-paper purgatory and provided with a digital afterlife.”
While other publishers in France are still suing Google for scanning their copyrighted material without permission, the Hachette deal may provide a framework for other agreements, in France and the US.
This year, a U.S. judge, Denny Chin, rejected the American settlement, and talks have stalled since. Meanwhile, with a final agreement in place in France, Google says it intends to start selling e-book versions of the Hachette titles by the end of the year, when it introduces a French version of its digital bookstore, Google Editions.
Could the agreement end up showing the way forward in the negotiations on a revised U.S. deal?
There are several key differences between the French accord and the U.S. proposal that Judge Chin rejected. One is that Hachette retains control of which books can be scanned and sold by Google, just as it does with copyrighted works that remain in print. Under the U.S. proposal, Google would have been free to digitize any out-of-print books, unless the copyright holders expressly opted out of the settlement.
The central problem with the US settlement was the “opt-out” provision for out-of-print books: copyright owners’ material would be scannable unless they specifically opted out. According to Judge Chin’s order:
“In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, and reasonable. As the United States and other objectors have noted, many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted an “opt-out” to an “opt-in” settlement.”
Judge Chin has given Google, the publishers and the authors until Sept. 15 to come up with a revised deal. If nothing is settled by then, the litigation that prompted the talks is set to restart, six years after the authors and publishers originally sued Google.