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Google online book plan sparks French revolt

France's national library has raised a "war cry" over plans by Google to put books from some of the world's great libraries on the Internet and wants to ensure the project does not lead a domination of American ideas.

Jean-Noel Jeanneney, who heads France's national library and is a noted historian, says Google's choice of works is likely to favour Anglo-Saxon ideas and the English language.

He wants the European Union to balance this with its own program and its own Internet search engines.

"It is not a question of despising Anglo-Saxon views ... It is just that in the simple act of making a choice, you impose a certain view of things," Jeanneney told Reuters in a telephone interview last Friday.

"I favor a multi-polar view of the world in the 21st century," he said. "I don't want the French Revolution retold just by books chosen by the United States. The picture presented may not be less good or less bad, but it will not be ours."

Jeanneney says he is not anti-American, and that he wants better relations between Europe and the United States. But like French President Jacques Chirac, he says he wants a multi-polar world in which U.S. views are not the only ones that are heard.

His views are making waves among intellectuals in France, where many people are wary of the impact of American ways and ideas on the French language and culture.

But he says he has heard nothing from politicians in Paris or Brussels, days before U.S. President Bush visits the European Union's headquarters and NATO. "On the eve of George Bush's arrival in Europe, the president of the National Library of France is sounding a war cry ... he is seeking a French and European crusade," Le Figaro newspaper reported on Friday.

California-based Google Inc. said last December it would scan millions of books and periodicals into its popular search engine over the next few years. Its partners in the project are Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University, the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library.

Google says the project will promote knowledge by making it more easily and more widely accessible. It aims to make money by attracting people to its Web site and to its advertisements.

The impact this might have on attendance at world libraries is not yet clear. But Jeanneney expressed his concerns in an article published by Le Monde newspaper late last month.

"Here we find a risk of crushing domination by America in defining the idea that future generations have of the world," he wrote, urging the EU to act fast.

He pushed his campaign forward this week by announcing the national library would make editions of 22 French periodicals and newspapers dating back to the 19th century available on the Internet.

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