BOOKS

Google Books Reaches Deal With Italy: Will Other Countries, Including The US, Follow Suit?

05/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Google Books has extended its presence in Europe with a deal reached Wednesday to digitize "up to one million" ancient Italian texts from libraries in Rome and Florence, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The agreement comes at a time when Google is struggling to maintain its Google Books foothold internationally. In December, the company was involved in a lawsuit in France, where a court determined that the digital books service was a violation of French copyright law.

In January, France announced that the country would be launching its own Google Books rival, called Gallica, which will build off an existing (but currently very small) database of digitized French documents. "Google came to Europe with the attitude of a conqueror," France's cultural minister, Frederic Mitterand, is quoted as saying. Mitterand plans, however, to collaborate with Google on Gallica, exchanging files "without confidentiality or exclusivity."

Meanwhile, Google has experienced trouble in China as well. In January, Chinese authors complained that Google was not getting proper authorization to scan their books, prompting an apology from Google, in which they promised to "respect the wishes of any Chinese author who hasn't authorized their books to be scanned," BusinessWeek reported.

Negative feelings about the digitization project are rising all over the world. Recently, though there have been no formal lawsuits, thousands of British writers opted out of the project in February after a U.S. court ruled that Google must allow authors to choose not to participate. And the settlement is still stalled in Federal Court in the U.S.

Italy seems to have come down on the side of Google, but we'll have to wait to see if other countries around the world follow suit.

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