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Google will not enforce exclusivity over library scanning
20.12.10 | Barbara Casassus
In a major policy about-turn, Google has said it will not enforce exclusivity clauses in contracts to scan and index library book collection, according to an opinion about online advertising released last week by the French competition watchdog.
Partners of Google Book Search may sign agreements authorising other search engines to access automatically digital copies of books for indexing and search purposes, the Competition Authority quoted Google as saying in a letter last July 19 to Anthony Whelan, head of cabinet of European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.
Google recently signed a six-month memorandum of understanding (MOU) to scan out-of-print French language books for Hachette Livre, which has to authorise each title before Google may touch it.
The authority said it did not object to the principle of temporary exclusive arrangements to avert the risk of rivals riding on Google’s back, but only as long as the duration was in line with its investment in the project. Such deals can even be pro-competitive and good for consumers, it noted. But length of time was a problem with the 25-year pact signed in 2008 for Google to scan 500,000 out-of-copyright titles for the Lyons Municipal Library. This "appears very exaggerated" in view of the rapid pace of change in the sector, and the field of the exclusivity "does not appear proportionate," the authority said.
Google, which said in its 2009 annual report that it had scanned and indexed 12 million books, told the authority last August that it had not requested the exclusivity clauses with the Lyons library. The authority added that it did not rule out taking up the issue of these agreements to ensure that they did not prevent Google competitors from digitising library collections, even though it was difficult to see what they would gain from the duplication.