Sarkozy squares up to Google over book project
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has offered a thinly veiled challenge to Google over its book digitisation project.
“We won’t let ourselves be stripped of our heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is,” Sarkozy said, without naming Google.
France is anxious to avoid French-language literature being swallowed by major international digitisation projects and is looking to create its own national digital champion.
At a public round table meeting in eastern France, the president said digitisation of books would be one of the projects financed by a planned national loan, which is due to pump billions of euros into strategic investments in 2010.
We are not going to be stripped of what generations and generations have produced in the French language, just because we weren’t capable of funding our own digitisation project
“We are not going to be stripped of what generations and generations have produced in the French language, just because we weren’t capable of funding our own digitisation project,” he added.
Publishing is the latest creative industry to be jolted by the digital revolution, with Google planning a huge library of scanned, electronic books and governments struggling to keep up with rapid change in the private sector.
Google’s book project is part of a settlement deal reached with the US Authors Guild. The plan has been praised for bringing broad access to books but has also been criticised in some quarters on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.
France’s government has proposed some of the world’s strictest online piracy legislation, and in September parliament approved a law that will allow authorities to disconnect illegal downloaders.
The government has also urged the European Union to agree on a massive digitisation project, effectively taking on Google.