First, three major U.S.-based companies railed against the Google Books settlement. Now an entire country says nein! The German government filed a complaint in U.S. courts yesterday warning lawmakers that the Google Books deal could have an international impact on copyright law, privacy, and the rights of German authors.
In 2005, Google enmeshed itself in a bad scene when it scanned millions of out-of-print works without author permission. The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers balked, Google coughed up $125 million, and here we are.
Though the Google settlement only applies in the U.S., Germany contends that its precedent will affect other countries.
“Once the database is posted, Internet users even in Germany will have access to the Google Books Search by using a freely accessible U.S. proxy server,” said Theodore C. Max, the German government’s lawyer. “In other words, even if the digital book database is entirely localized within the United States, it will still be available for search requests from Germany.”
The potential of Google signing an agreement with the European Union is Germany’s biggest fear, and based on reports, this may be in the cards. Last week European Commissioner Viviane Reding gave the thumbs-up to the Google Books plan. “I do understand the fears of many publishers and libraries facing the market power of Google,” Reding said in a speech. “But I also share the frustrations of many internet companies which would like to offer interesting business models in this field, but cannot do so because of the fragmented regulatory system in Europe.” Reding hopes to see EU copyright law mirroring U.S. laws, which would overturn the current stipulation that authors must give consent before their work can be published.
Meanwhile, Google is sneaking its way into Europe. Coolerbooks.com, an ebookstore owned by British company Interead, is the first ebookstore outside of the U.S. to sponge up the millions of scanned public domain books in Google’s repertoire. Coolerbooks.com now claims to be the largest ebookstore in the world. “. . . Our partnership with Google allows us to offer more content than anyone else, as well as giving readers the freedom to have a look through ebooks that they might be interested in,” says Neil Jones, founder of Interead. “We’re extremely proud to be the first ebookstore outside the U.S. to partner with Google Books, and we hope that the collaboration will make the appeal and accessibility of ebooks broader than ever.”
Now that Germany has paved the way, other countries may fall in line with the country’s rhetoric. But until the settlement actually reaches foreign shores, it’s almost none of Germany’s business, especially since the fate of the settlement in the United States has yet to be decided. I take it as posturing; a self-righteous act that could make Germany appear prehistoric if the settlement ekes its way through the U.S. courts and abroad with Google emerging victorious.