French Language Blog

Google Puts the “€” in French “€-Books” Posted by on Jun 12, 2012 in Culture, Vocabulary

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.)

Back in June 2006, a French publishing house called “La Martinière“, current owner of the well-known Éditions du Seuil, sued the Mountain View-based company.

La Martinière was fully backed by le Syndicat national de l’Édition (SNE) and la Société des Gens de Lettres (SGDL.)

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.

Why so?

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.)

Pour mémoire (for the record), the SGDL is the brainchild of high-caliber 19th-century French authors, of the likes of Balzac, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas.

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.

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  1. Alexis:

    You’ve got some nerve to talk abuot Google’s “Internet piracy” when your own website plagiarizes other web work without shame or regret, not to mention silencing people who criticize your blog for plagiarism

    • Hichem:

      @Alexis Bonjour Alexis, and thank you for your comment.

      I joined the Transparent Language French Blog more than two years ago. I also ran it single-handedly for more than a year, after the departure of my first co-blogger, Jennie.
      She and I had no issue whatsoever regarding plagiarism, or any other concern regarding the quality of our posts.

      In fact, more than a year ago, I wrote a quite lengthy post condemning the shameless practice of plagiarism by a certain French author (Michel Houellebecq), whose “award-winning book” at that time included several non-referenced paragraphs copied verbatim from the French Wikipedia.

      If you are interested in the topic, you may wish to read the post in question here: “Houellebecq et le “Prix Clone-court”: ou le Nouvel Âge du clonage de clowns raëliens

      As for the allegation of “silencing our critics”, as you can see, your comment has not been censored!

  2. Alexis:

    Thank you for not deleting my comment, even if it is the most normal thing to do if you are an honest business or blogger.

    But that’s the problem, it’s about honesty.
    And If you already “condemned the plagiarism” of others like you say, why don’t you condemn the plagiarism on your own blog too?

    I have my personal language blogging website since 3 and half years, and I read other language blogs. I remember finding something on your “Transparent” blog which I recognized, it was copied straight from a book of someone I know who worked hard to write it and have it published. The guy who copied it here, Sean Young, not only did not give credit to the original work, like any honest blogger would, he even tried to argue with me that it was “fair use” to copy many paragraphs from someone’s work without citing it, making it look like it is his own!

    Unless he never had high-school or college education, he is just lying.

    After that, I received a message from your “Social Media Manager”, but all my other messages were not allowed since

    Now you want to talk about “shameless plagiarism”? Take a look at this:

    >>> “Moving foward with the future in French” Posted on 15. Jun, 2012 by Adir in Grammar

    The post is a complete ripoff of “Chapter 15: Moving Forward with the Future Tense” from “French Verbs for Dummies” by Zoe Erotopoulos, PhD Professor of French at Fairfield University.

    All your blog readers can check for themselves, the original here

    The book warns: “No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Sections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978-750-8400, fax 978-646-8600.”

    You can’t argue like your friend tried with me, that it is “fair use”, because the Sections 107 and 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act are specific: “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes” and “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work”

    If you are still not convinced, maybe someone should get in touch with the Legal Department of Wiley Publishing to see what’s their take on this?

    >>> “Advanced vocabulary: crime and criminals” Posted on 18. Jun, 2012 by Adir in Vocabulary

    This post about “crime and criminals” is very fitting, but it forgot to mention a crime and criminals in its list, “plagiarism” and “plagiarizers”

    The whole thing is copied without any reference made to the source, “Quizlet Flashcards”

    Check for yourself here

    To your readers who don’t know Quizlet, “Quizlet is an online learning tool created by high school sophomore Andrew Sutherland. It began as an idea that popped into 15-year-old Andrew Sutherland’s head when he was assigned by his French teacher to memorize 111 animal names”

    What a shame that an idea of a 15-year-old gets recklessly exploited without receiving any credit…

    The same Adir makes it look like it is his work or his company Transparent when he says in the end: “Want more free resources to learn French? Check out the other goodies we offer to help make your language learning efforts a daily habit”!!!

    Not a very honest way to make profit from your “goodies”…

    >>> “Using the Phone in French” Posted on 15. Jun, 2012 by Sean Young in Culture, Vocabulary”

    Same thing here, all the vocabulary is a rip off by Sean Young from Quizlet

    No credit was given to its owner!

    >>> “How to use the verb “y avoir” (there to be)” Posted on 10. Jun, 2012 by Adir in Grammar”

    Also a rip off from Quizlet, and if you don’t believe me look for yourself, it’s very easy

    >>> “Building Your Vocabulary” Posted on 11. Jun, 2012 by Sean Young in Vocabulary

    This is a four page long word for word ripoff from “Vocabulary Building and Memorization”, from page 62 to page 65 of “Peace Corps Volunteer, On-going Language”

    He doesn’t say anywhere where he got it from, making it look like it’s his.

    Google the same content and you will find out that the plagiarism of Sean Young extends to the “Transparent” Hebrew blog too! Here it is again

    But wait, here’s the best one: His plagirizing work is also available on his own copyrighted website “Seán L. Young | Young’s Language Consulting”,
    where he asks you to give him some $$$ for his trouble, “please consider donating to keep this website free”!!!

    I could go on and on with other posts, but I think now your readers understand why the whole thing looks like a scam. I rest my case!

    • Hichem:

      @Alexis Bonjour Alexis,

      Thank you for your message.

      Please know that I read it, and I wish to say this to to you and to all our readers who read us everyday, since it is above all our reputation and credibility that is at stake:

      1. I personally condemn all forms of plagiarism no matter where they take place, here on our French Blog or anywhere else. I have always done so, and on this topic I direct everyone to read my ““Houellebecq et le “Prix Clone-court”: ou le Nouvel Âge du clonage de clowns raëliens“, posted on the 9th of November, 2010.)

      2. I am proud to say that my personal reputation remains intact. As anyone can easily check, throughout the past two years, I never failed to provide proper reference to all the texts I cited or used in my articles.

      3. I compared the articles recently posted by my co-bloggers with the links you provided. I do admit that the resemblance is troubling. I therefore urge my two co-bloggers to insert in all of the posts mentioned above a proper reference, citing the original source(s) they used to write their articles.

      4. For further assistance, please refer directly to our Social Media Manager, Lorien Green,

      Merci bien,


  3. Sean Young:

    I’m not sure what you want from all this, but I will have to say that since you are accusing me of plagiarizing material from a book that I never heard of nor read until you mentioned the title of it, I would like to see what the exact wording from the publication is that I supposedly plagiarized. The other accusations you are making against me and my friend Adir is also based on a misunderstanding of what can or cannot be considered copyrightable.

    I have been writing language books and lessons for over 20 years. I have also read and studied copyright law. The posts I write for these blogs are researched and checked before putting them up. When you make the accusation of
    plagiarizing a listing of words or phrases from a website, please keep in mind that vocabulary words and set phrases are points of fact and facts are not copyrightable:…0.0.n_KAnnFWSPs&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=934f7434d4aff678&biw=1366&bih=643
    It’s the person’s thoughts and how they are presented that are copyrightable. Otherwise all Modern English dictionaries today that are not printed by Samuel Webster are violating copyright law. All phrasebooks printed by different language companies are violating copyright law.

    As for my own personal website, I see you failed to point out the copyright date of the materials on my website and you failed to mention the link to a credits page in the footer:
    © 1988-2005 Seán L. Young | Young's Language Consulting | Credits
    A lot of my materials has been used in many publications (including U.S. and British government publications) and websites. Some of my work is in a competitor’s software package. That does not mean I’m using other’s information to retaliate, no, the information I present is what I myself have written over the years. It may look strikingly similar to what others wrote, or there may be a similar layout and I apologize. But there are over 7 billion people on this planet and there will be at least a dozen with the same exact thought and information.

  4. Samuel:

    Hi, Alexis,

    I checked those internet sources you gave, you are right thats the originals right there.
    So many of them and almost in the same order of appearance. Can’t be just coincidence.

    My point of view is this, if you take something from any where, book internet etc, be honest about were you took it from, or else you lose all credibility when exposed

    Sean, it won’t hurt to be honest. Lying will hurt you more than telling the truth.


  5. Alexis:

    Hi Sean Young, when you say “7 billion people on this planet, there will be at least a dozen with the same exact thought and information” I see that as an insult to my intelligence and the intelligence of your readers.

    Now tell me if two different people on this planet who never met can write two identical texts like this:

    In “Let’s Visit Nice”, Posted: 23 May 2012 09:47 AM PDT

    Sean Young says: “Do not carry anything valuable or difficult to replace in your pockets. Use pouches underneath your clothing for anything valuable, including cash. In restaurants and cafes opportunist theft of handbags is a constant risk – keep them close at hand. Do not go to the sea front at night after 22:00 unless you are a group of at least 5. It’s a dangerous area and you are likely to get in trouble”

    The tourist guide “Travel South of France: Provence, French Riviera and Languedoc-Roussillon” now available as an ebook says: “Do not carry anything valuable or difficult to replace in your pockets. Use pouches underneath your clothing for anything valuable, including cash. In restaurants and cafes opportunist theft of handbags is a constant risk – keep them close at hand. Do not go to the sea front at night after 22:00 unless you are a group of at least 5. It’s a dangerous area and you are likely to get in trouble”

    Pure coincidence?

    Let’s take a look again

    Sean Young says: “If you do become a victim of any crime, the National Police Station is where you need to go to report problems. It’s at the junction of Ave Marechal Foch and Dubouchage, a few hundred yards east of the Nice Etoiles shopping centre. They will supply you with the necessary statements to support insurance claims, but you will find the station very busy with other victims towards the end of the evening”

    The plagiarized book says: “If you do fall foul of Nice’s criminal practictioners, the National Police Station is where you need to go to report problems. It’s at the junction of Ave Marechal Foch and Dubouchage, a few hundred yards east of the Nice Etoiles shopping centre. They will supply you with the necessary statements to support insurance claims, but you will find the station very busy with other victims towards the end of the evening”

    Take the first sentence away and the rest is word for word the same.

    Plagiarism or not?

    Maybe you got ESP

  6. Sean Young:


  7. Sean Young:

    Commenting should continue at the original posting:

  8. Alexis:

    If you say this is your own material, proof is here to show that you are lying.

    If you say you copied it word for word without giving credit, you admit you are a plagiarizer.

    Case closed for now, unless you persist.

  9. Stephane Erler:

    When I read the exchange above I hardly believe your “no censorship” policy, and won’t be surprised if you suppressed this either

    I made many comments about the tons of “French 101 mistakes” in a recent page but they were not allowed. Negative feedback is not welcome it seems, but positive feedback from people who don’t know any better seems to be no problem with you guys

    Like the “How to use comme and comment” which pretends to teach things about French but seems like it was written by a person who never completed a French course in her life

    Like I said I didn’t want to be all negative because your content seems to change from one writer to another, but honestly I feel pretty bad for the people who subscribe to your blog to improve their French, and instead go worse than they probably were before

    Alright sans aucune rancune


    • Transparent Language:

      @Stephane Erler Hi Stephane,

      It’s not that we censor, or that we disregard negative comments (and please email if you believe to have seen a case of that, I need to know).

      We like to include articles both by language learners and language experts on the blogs because sometimes we find that language learners who are in the middle of learning can share challenges and tricks that language experts might not remember, or just not know. Naturally, that can lead to an accuracy issue since learners are NOT experts. It’s a fine line to walk, and sometimes issues occur with it.

      Your comments have not been ignored at all, rest assured.

      – Lorien
      Social Media Manager
      Transparent Language, Inc.

  10. Lisa Orland:

    Hi there

    My friend showed me your French and Dutch Blog and now I follow them since more than one year!

    Untill recently your French Blog was the BEST free resource on the internet, since it always shifted levels from beginner to expert etc.

    But I noticed since some time that you extended to some new writers who are really not so good. Either because they just copy from other websites or because they also need to learn French before teaching it to others.

    I don’t think people will stick to reading this blog if they come to your site or subscripe to it to better their French only to find out that 80 % of it or more is wrong.

    I think that just hurts your reputation and dicredit you as a good learning resource out there.

    Thats just my personal opinion, hope you take it in mind.

    Greetings from the Netherlands


    • Transparent Language:

      @Lisa Orland Hi Lisa,

      We often like to include the voice of a language learner on our blogs since it gives unique insights into that side of the process that an expert or instructor might not be aware of. However, this does open up the possibility of errors, and that’s the line we have to walk in doing so.

      Your comments are appreciated, and we hope you continue to follow the French blog.


      – Lorien
      Social Media Manager
      Transparent Language, Inc.

  11. Anonymous:

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I absolutely liked reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the tips coming. I enjoyed it!