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French publisher demands damages from Google
28.09.09 | Barbara Casassus
French group La Martinière has become the first publisher worldwide to sue Google in court, demanding €15m (£13.8m) in damages for copyrighted books digitised by the search engine without permission.
The publisher is also seeking a penalty of €100,000 per day, and €3m for prejudice to its image. The trial opened in France on 24th September and a ruling is expected by 18th December at the latest.
La Martinière, which is backed by French publishers association Syndicat National de l’Edition (SNE) and the French Writers Union, Syndicat des Gens de Lettres, (SGDL) estimates that the search engine has illegally digitised between 6,000 and 9,000 of its titles.
According to press reports, Google lawyer Alexandra Neri argued that the French court was not competent to rule on the case, since the books are digitised in the United States.
"What Google does is absolutely legal," she was quoted as saying. "We have never denied that Seuil holds the copyright on printed works, but it has never proved that it holds the right on digital versions of the works."
But La Martinère’s lawyer, Yann Colin, argued that the prejudice to his client is irreversible. "Digitising is reproduction. Once it is digitised, you can’t undo it," Reuters reported him as saying.