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France: Google Reaches Agreements on E-Books with French Publishers Association and Authors Group

(June 15, 2012) On June 11, 2012, Google and the French Société des Gens de Lettres (SGDL) announced that they had signed an agreement that ends a lawsuit on copyright infringement begun against Google in 2006. The primary mission of the SGDL is to defend authors' copyrights. (La SGDL et Google ont signé un accord qui met fin à la procédure judiciairequi était en cours, Société des Gens de Lettres website (June 11, 2012).)

On December 18, 2009, the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (Court of General Jurisdiction) ordered Google to pay a fine of €300,000 (about US$374,000) for digitalizing excerpts from books without the consent of their authors. The court also awarded €300,000 in damages to three publishing companies (Editions du Seuil; SA Delachaux & Niestle, and Société Harry N. Abrams) and enjoined Google from further digitizing and distributing books, subject to a daily fine of €10,000 (about US$12,500) for non-compliance. SGDL and the Syndicat National de l'Edition (SNE) were each awarded a symbolic one euro. (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, Dec. 18, 2009, LEXBASE A8446EPI, online subscription database). SNE is a French publishers' association. Google appealed the decision.

The agreement with SGDL “promotes initiatives for the dissemination of digital books and the diversity of creation with respect for copyright law.” It includes, notably, financial help from Google to the SGDL database of authors and copyright holders. (La SGDL et Google ont signé un accord qui met fin à la procédure judiciaire qui était en cours, supra.)

SNE also reached an agreement that ends its legal battle with Google. SNE and Google have negotiated a framework agreement to be proposed to authors. In addition, Google will help fund an SNE program called “Little Champions of Reading” that will promote reading aloud among primary school students. (Mise au point à propos du protocole d'accord entre Google et la SGDL (June 12, 2012), Société des Gens de Lettreswebsite (June 12, 2012); see also Eric Pfanner, French Publisher Group Strikes Deal with Google over E-Books, THE NEW YORK TIMES (June 11, 2012).)