* Google says project will make searching for old books easy
* Defends project as promoting vision of Internet for all
* European countries consider what to do about books on Web
By John O'Donnell and Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, Sept 7 Google (GOOG.O), the Internet
search group, defended its scanning and publishing of millions
of books online on Monday by saying the project was making
finding information on the Web more democratic.
The Californian company struck a deal with author and
publisher groups in the United States earlier this year,
allowing it to copy books for the Internet.
But the agreement has been criticised and come under the
gaze of the U.S. Justice Department because it does not say what
Google might charge libraries, for example. Some of them fear
the service will become an expensive must-have.
Dan Clancy, architect of the Google programme, told a
hearing at the European Commission, which is the European
Union's executive body, that the group hoped to allow Web
surfers to find out-of-print books.
"We have seen a democratisation of access to online
information," said Clancy, engineering director of Google Book
"You can discover information which you did not know was
there," he said. "It is important that these (out-of-print)
books are not left behind. Google's interest was in helping
people to find the books."
The EU said this year it would examine the Google deal in
the United States after Germany said the company had scanned
books from U.S. libraries to create a database without asking
The Commission is considering what Europe should do about
scanning and printing books on the Web.
Viviane Reding and Charlie McCreevy, the EU commissioners
responsible for media and the European marketplace, said they
would look at shaking up copyright laws.
That could make it easier for Europe to follow the United
States in scanning and printing more books online.
The EU has launched its own online register, Europeana,
which includes books and images ranging from William Shakespeare
to pictures of French actress Brigitte Bardot.
But most European countries have been slow in scanning and
publishing literature for Europeana and Reding hopes companies
such as Google can pick up the slack.
The decision to allow Google to build its library of more
than 10 million scanned books has divided opinion worldwide.
"The settlement mostly only affects out-of-print books,"
said James Gleick, one of the writers who sued Google but later
agreed to let the group scan old books and print them online.
"For us who are authors of out-of-print books, it brings our
work to a whole new audience," he told the hearing.
Others are more sceptical. ICOMP, a lobby group sponsored by
U.S. software giant Microsoft (MSFT.O), said Google's plans to
scan and publish would concentrate too much power in its hands.
David Wood, a lawyer working for ICOMP, told reporters
Google would create an "enduring monopoly" in the supply of
(Editing by Dale Hudson/Will Waterman)