Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, March 21, 2005

More on the French response to the Google library project

Aisha Labi, France Plans to Digitize Its 'Cultural Patrimony' and Defy Google's 'Domination', Chronicle of Higher Education, March 21, 2005. Excerpt: 'President Jacques Chirac of France has asked the head of the country's national library and the minister of culture and communication to plan a French-led project that would make millions of European literary works accessible on the Internet. The move appears to be a response to a warning from Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of the National Library of France. In an essay in the newspaper Le Monde in January, he said that plans by Google and five leading academic institutions and libraries in the United States and Britain to digitize and make available online the content of millions of volumes posed a "risk of a crushing domination by America in defining the idea that future generations will have of the world"...In a statement released by his office, Mr. Chirac said that he had asked Mr. Jeanneney and Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres to "analyze the conditions in which the wealth of the great libraries of France and Europe could be made more widely and quickly accessible on the Internet." Mr. Chirac said that because of their "exceptionally rich cultural patrimony, France and Europe must take a determining role" in such a project....Yet French officials insist that their project should be seen not merely as a reaction to Google, but in the context of existing French and European efforts to make information available online. "I really stress that it's not anti-American," said an official at the Ministry of Culture and Communication, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It is not a reaction. The objective is to make more material relevant to European patrimony available."...A spokeswoman for Google responded to the French announcement by saying that "we are supportive of any effort to make information accessible to the world." Sidney Verba, director of the Harvard University Library, one of Google's collaborators, also welcomed the French project. "It's a fine idea," he said. "The more of this sort of work that can be done around the world, the better off everyone will be."' (PS: Chirac, Google, and Verba are all exactly right. The more, the merrier.)