Not too long ago, several French literati organizations seemed to heroically wage an “uphill crusade” against the Internet search Goliath Google, accusing it of outright book piracy.
Today, the paramount motivation of these organizations appears to be more mercantile than virtuously academic.
Everything else, of course, “n’est que littérature“ (“nothing but literature”)
Internet search giant Google has finally struck a deal with two major French publishing organisations which had previously dared to take it to court, bringing an end to six years of legal battle over its controversial “Google Books” feature (click here to view Google Livres, the French version of Google Books.)
Three years later, the French publishers efforts seemed to be rewarded: A TGI (French acronym for Tribunal de Grande Instance, namely a French Superior Court) condemned Google for contrefaçon (piracy), considering that scanning books without the express authorization of their authors constituted a serious violation of la loi française (French law.)
Notwithstanding this condemnation, several SNE members went on to conclude separate deals with Google to sell their own livres épuisés (out-of-print books.)
Take for example French publishing leader Hachette, the flagship subsidiary of the Lagardère media empire which now boasts in its corporate portfolio prestigious maisons d’éditions such as Fayard and Grasset. Less than two years ago, it reduced its participation at a major SNE book fair, the famous Salon du Livre de Paris, to the tune of 10% only.
Experts point to the fact that Hachette had in the meantime quietly allowed Google to scan its old and rare books and sell them as des livres numériques (e-books.)
Less than a year later, the same French publisher that cast the first stone, namely la Martinière, brazenly struck a comparable deal with Google—although it wished, for reasons readily understandable, that the deal would remain “confidential.”
Not to be outdone, the Société des Gens de Lettres (SGDL) also wanted its part du gâteau (share of the cake), so it also reached a separate agreement with Google, by virtue of which the American company would bankroll the design of its brand new base de données (database.)
Today, the society is comfortably housed in the luxurious Hôtel de Massa, which hit the news headlines back in 1928 for its painstaking relocation, pierre par pierre (stone by stone), from its original location at the Champs-Élysées, all the way to the garden of l’Observatoire de Paris, the leading astronomical observatory of France, built in the 17th-century by none other than the brother of Charles Perraut, the French author who would popularize fables such as Cinderella and la Belle au bois dormant—works now scannable for Google gratuitement (free of charge), but which won’t be available to readers for free, bien sûr.