Google makes concessions to European publishers

As the European Union examines a U.S. deal between Google and publishers, the company made concessions on Monday designed to address concerns its book digitization project has raised in Europe.

U.S. publishers sued Google for failing to respect their copyright when the company started digitizing books. They then reached a revenue-sharing settlement covering books that are still copyright-protected, ones whose copyright has expired, as well as the huge number of books that are technicaly still protected but have fallen out of print and where the copyright owner can't be located.

In a letter to 16 European book publishing companies, the search giant proposed giving two of the eight director positions on its proposed U.S. book registry to non-U.S. representatives, a person close to the company said Monday.

Google paid US$125 million to create the registry which will act as middleman between Google and the publishers and ensure that copyright owners are compensated, PC World said.

But the U.S settlement--which has been alternately hailed by civil rights groups as a way to bridge the Digital Divide and hampered by opposition from authors and privacy advocates--will only apply to users in this country.

According to CNET News, Google made its conciliatory gestures as the European Commission kicked off a series of discussions aimed at "seeking precise details on the exact scope of the settlement" and "how many European works or publications will potentially be affected."

At a hearing in Brussels Monday, organizations representing various European publishers, libraries, rights holders, and businesses involved in Internet commerce criticized the proposed settlement as it currently stands, saying it would lead to "a de facto monopoly" in the emerging digital books market.

Representing France at the hearing, Nicolas George of the country's Ministry of Culture said the deal presents "a clear and evident risk for cultural diversity," according to The New York Times.

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