German official: Europe needs plan to handle "orphan works" texts
Nov 16, 2009, 18:07 GMT
Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief culture adviser welcomed Monday the removal of German books from search giant Google's project to create a world online library, and said Europe must solve the 'orphan works' dilemma on its own.
Google has included the content of 10 million books in its search engine, including many 'orphan' books which are still covered by copyright law although the authors are dead and their heirs practically unfindable.
Bernd Neumann, state minister for culture, said, 'To make progress with the European Digital Library and national digital libraries, we urgently need a solution to the problem of the so-called orphan works.'
He was referring to plans for European governments to make digital copies of old books.
Under a revised deal last Friday between Google and US publishers, a new US agency, the unclaimed works fiduciary (UWF), would have powers to republish the 'orphan works.' Currently it is illegal in European countries to republish books without copyright.
Neumann welcomed the Friday agreement as 'a step in the right direction.' The new deal confines the Google Books project to US, British, Canadian and Australian books, removing most existing books in German, the second main language in Europe.
'The changes show that criticism from Europe, especially from France and Germany, was heard in the right places,' Neumann said.
He said Berlin had not just been critical, but also wanted to pursue its own plans to digitize German books.
A leading German publisher said he now hoped Google would make an offer to German publishers to digitize European books.
Guenter Berg, chief publishing officer of the Hoffmann und Campe company, said, 'If this search engine operator had spoken just once to the German publishers before the original Google Books Settlement, we would not have had this shambles of the last few months.
'Our publishing houses were treated impolitely. A powerful book nation such as Germany should have been invited to become a party to the agreement,' Berg said in an interview on Deutschlandradio Kultur, a public radio channel.