The European Union's executive body will study plans by Google to make millions of books available online after Germany said the Internet company's project flouts EU copyright law.
The bloc's industry ministers agreed on Thursday to ask the European Commission to look at how Google's settlement with authors in the United States affect writers' rights in the EU.
The commission will carefully study the whole issue and, if need be, to take steps, Vladimir Tosovsky, industry minister for the Czech EU presidency, told a news conference.
A Heidelberg Appeal has been launched in Germany claiming that intellectual property is being stolen from German authors.
Germany said in a presentation to industry ministers on Thursday in Brussels that Google has scanned books from U.S. libraries without prior consent of rights holders to create its Google Books database.
Among the books scanned are numerous books by European rights holders, the German paper said.
Britain and France voiced support for Germany's concerns.
American author and publisher groups have reached a deal to allow Google to digitize millions of books. The deal, which still requires court approval, would also affect European authors published in America though they can opt out of the deal.
Google's actions are irreconcilable with the principles of European copyright law, according to which the consent of the author must be obtained before his or her works may be reproduced or made publicly available on the Internet, the German paper said.
Google said it was happy to engage to any constructive dialogue on the future of books and copyright.
We will now have a welcome opportunity to explain to the European Commission how authors, publishers and Google have agreed to move forward in the United States, a spokesman for the company in Brussels said.
Germany said Google's actions could increase media ownership concentration and affect cultural diversity. The EU launched its own digital library, Europeana.eu, last November but was soon swamped by 10 million hits an hour and crashed.
(Reporting by Huw Jones, editing by Rupert Winchester)