“This move has an impact on cultural and media policy that we need to put on a European level,” Culture Minister Bernd Neumann told the paper, adding that he encouraged the European Commission to review Google Books development in the region.
Google Books is a massive undertaking to scan the entire collections of major libraries. Parts of these books are available to view, meanwhile uncopyrighted works can also be downloaded.
But critics in the publishing industry worry that scanning books without authors' permission is a violation of copyright laws. A dispute between the internet giant and US authors and publishers is currently underway in a New York court.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Handelsblatt the project is a violation of copyright laws.
“Google's procedure is unacceptable,” he said. “First scanning, then asking – that doesn't work. I agree with our justice minister. We're thinking about how we as a government can support German authors in American courts.”
Steinmeier also acknowledged Google's substantial economic interest in the project.
“Through digitalising millions of books without right holders' permission, Google has already gained a competetive advantage against similar projects like Europeana and www.libreka.de – who unlike Google respect European copyright laws,” he told the paper.
“That can't be, and I expect the European Commission to handle it quickly.”