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Google Presents The Largest Online Library in The World

Google has moved a stage closer to creating the world's biggest on-line library by making millions of books available on the internet. The search engine giant has struck a landmark deal in the U.S. with publishers and writers to allow them to digitally scan and store their work. Its controversial proposals have also received preliminary approval from some UK publishing bodies.

But some authors in this country remain angry over what is seen as Google's high-handed attitude. They are still unhappy it initially starting scanning books without permission - and fear that their copyright could be infringed.

The internet giant has reached a provisional settlement with U.S. writers' groups which would allow books published in the U.S., UK, Canada or Australia to be available to American users. A deal for UK consumers is likely to follow within 12 months. When it is launched, the new service will allow scholars, students and readers to search, preview and purchase on-line access to the works.

Under the deal, authors get a one-off payment for their work, followed by further reimbursement depending on how often their material was used.

Google has said it has already copied ten million books, seven million of which were out of print. For legal reasons, it has not said which ones. The internet giant announced it had been converting books into digital form in 2004, prompting legal action by a number of rights holders in the U.S.

This action has now been provisionally settled, and it is hoped that an American court will approve the agreement early next year. Yesterday Mark Le Fanu, of the Society of Authors, said: 'The settlement is particularly aimed at making out-of-print books available online in a way that's controlled and under which authors and publishers will get some payment.

'To that extent British authors stand to receive a one-off payment for the digitisation that has taken place already, and, in the course of time, a stream of future payments depending on the use that's made of their work.

'The number of books that have been digitised runs into millions, and books by British authors are certainly a significant proportion. It will be many thousands."

Mr Le Fanu said the society would be likely to back any future extension into the British market. But not all publishers are welcoming the deal.

Anthony Cheetham, director of Atlantic Books, said: 'We should be extremely cautious about ceding rights to any organisation in this sort of default manner.'

He added: 'It is generally felt that if somebody wants to reproduce they have to seek the owner's permission, not that they can use it and then say "we didn't ask you but we will give you a proportion of the takings".

'Somebody said that it was a bit like the burglar coming in and taking all your possessions and calling you afterwards and saying that he was selling them on.'

But Simon Juden, of the Publishers Association, said that failing to support the deal would have deprived UK writers and rights holders of control over how their work was used.

Mr Juden said it was 'almost inevitable' that the Google settlement would be appealed, meaning a potential delay of two years. A row about Google's tactics blew up five years ago when it emerged that the internet giant had been secretly scanning millions of  books.

Authors and publishers were alarmed and sued. In addition, powerful IT and online publishers opposed the plans. Many still believe the proposals will still be subject to legal wrangling.

This could mean that a separate European Commission funded plan for an on-line library of out-of-print works could be up and running sooner than the Google model. The publishing industry in Britain is worth £1.8billion, with about 270million books sold last year.

Source : The Daily Mail

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