It’s probably fair to say that the French have a love-hate relationship with American culture, companies and institutions. (The same could be said for some Americans; remember “freedom fries”?) The latest expression of the negative side of that equation in the Gallic world is disappointment over an apparently impending agreement between the French national library and Google to allow the latter to scan its books. The UK’s Times Online has the story of what one french journalist described as a movement by the library from “resistance to collaboration”:
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) was reported to be on the verge of a deal with the Californian giant under which Google’s digital library would get even larger. “Google has won,” said the front-page headline in La Tribune.
According to the article the deal was a pragmatic concession to the cost of maintaining a separate and competing project:
The decision was purely financial, said Denis Bruckmann, director of collections at the library — which will be joining 29 other leading libraries in opening its shelves to Google’s project, including Oxford’s Bodleian. France provided only €5 million a year for digitising books for Gallica, the national digital library, yet the national library needed up to €80 million (£68 million) just for its works from 1870 to 1940, he said.
Back in the US, another party has lined up against the Google Book Search Settlement, Scott E. Gant, a lawyer-author and member of Washington law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner. He intends to file a “sweeping objection” to the settlement today. The reason that his involvement may be significant is that he’s advancing new legal theories and arguments against the deal:
Unlike most previous objections to the project, which focused on policy issues and recommended modifications to the settlement, Mr. Gant argues that the agreement, which gives Google commercial rights to millions of books without having to negotiate for them individually, amounts to an abuse of the class-action process. He also contends that it does not sufficiently compensate authors and does not adequately notify and represent all the authors affected.
Legal experts, who had not seen the filing but heard a description of it, said it could be the most direct attack on the agreement so far.
The embattled Book Search Settlement is also the subject of a formal US Justice Department anti-trust inquiry. As an aside the Boies of Boies Schiller & Flexner is David Boies, the lawyer who led the successful anti-trust case against Microsoft and who lost the presidency for Al Gore in unsuccessful arguments before the US Supreme Court in 2000.