Summary:

The race is on to digitise Europe’s out-of-print books and EC media commissioner Viviane Reding says Europe can beat Google (NSDQ: GOOG) in…

Google Espana by author Georges Ifrah
photo: edans

The race is on to digitise Europe’s out-of-print books and EC media commissioner Viviane Reding says Europe can beat Google (NSDQ: GOOG) in digitising the continent’s works if it acts fast.

Reding is the driving force behind Europeana, the EU’s official online library which launched last year, and she said in a statement

“Europe, with its rich cultural heritage, has most to offer and most to win from books digitisation. If we act swiftly, pro-competitive European solutions on books digitisation may well be sooner operational than the… Google Books Settlement in the United States.”

Along with internal markets commissioner Charlie McCreevy, Reding repeated her calls for the EU licensing and copyright regime to be updated in line with the US system so out-of-print titles and orphan works, where the copyright owners can’t be found, can be more easily published online. She adds that 40 percent of the British Library’s catalogue has no identified copyright owner.

Reding is no Google critic — she’s an avowed supporter of an international, digital, free market economy and welcomes the Google Books project — but her concern is that if Google’s controversial settlement with US publishers is passed as legal “the vast number of European works in U.S. libraries that have been digitised by Google would only be available to consumers and researchers in the U.S. but not in Europe itself.”

European publishers and governments, including France and Germany have strongly opposed the Google plan because of what they see as a disregard for European copyright laws — because of their protests, a hearing to decide whether the settlement with US publishers is legal was postponed and will now be heard next month.

The commission will carry on talking to people in the industry, as well as concerned parties, following on from its day-long roundtable discussion with Google and others last month. In November the EC-funded Accessible Registries of Rights information and Orphan Works (ARROW) kicked off plans to draw up an EU-wide “due diligence” procedure for orphan works

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