Merkel criticizes Google for copyright infringement

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday criticized the efforts of Google Inc to build a massive digital library, saying the Internet should not be exempt from copyright laws.

In her weekly video podcast, before Tuesday’s opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Merkel appealed for more international cooperation on copyright protection and said her government opposed Google’s drive to scan libraries full of books.

“The German government has a clear position: copyrights have to be protected in the Internet,” Merkel said, adding there are “considerable dangers” for copyright protection in the Internet.

“That’s why we reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection -- like Google is doing. The government places a lot of weight on this position on copyrights to protect writers in Germany.”

Google has already digitized 10 million books.

Merkel, who will open the world’s largest book fair in Germany’s financial capital, said there was a need to discuss the issue in greater detail in international institutions.

She did not, however, offer any concrete solutions.

Google’s plan to create a massive digital library has been praised for bringing broad access to books but has also been criticized on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.

In New York, a judge said on Wednesday that changes to a settlement that would allow Google to put millions of books online should be presented in court by November 9.

The settlement is an effort to resolve a 2005 lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and others against Google’s effort to scan libraries full of books. In that suit, authors and publishers had accused Google of copyright infringement.

Under the terms of the original settlement, Google would pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry. Authors and publishers could register works there and be paid for books and other publications that the search giant would put online.

German book publishers are up in arms about the deal, and on September 24 they criticized European regulators for failing to take a stand against the settlement.

Also last month, French publishing house La Martiniere, the French Publishers’ Association and authors’ group SGDL asked a Paris court to fine Google 15 million euros ($22 million) and 100,000 euros for each day it continued to violate copyright by digitizing their books.

Editing by Alison Williams