Wed, Dec 16, 2009 - Page 6 News List

France to digitize its own literary and historical works

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , PARIS

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged nearly US$1.1 billion on Monday toward the computer scanning of French literary works, audiovisual archives and historical documents, an announcement that underscored his government’s desire to maintain control over France’s cultural heritage in an era of digitization.

The French National Library announced in August that it was engaged in discussions with Google over the digitization of its collections, part of a global effort by Google to digitize the world’s literary works. This provoked an uproar among French officials and the publishing community and the discussions were suspended.

“We won’t let ourselves be stripped of our heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is,” Sarkozy said last week, apparently in a reference to Google.

The money pledged on Monday will finance a public-private partnership that will digitize the nation’s cultural works, Sarkozy said. Yet that partnership might well involve Google.

“The question remains open,” said Bruno Racine, president of the National Library, in a telephone interview.

He emphasized the “necessity of a partnership with the private sector” to secure the capital needed for vast digitization projects.

He put the cost of digitizing the National Library’s collections, which include more than 14 million books and several million other documents, at more than US$1.5 billion.

Those who opposed the National Library’s discussions with Google were concerned primarily with its “dominant place” in the digital market, he said.

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