Paris - Three top French publishers said Wednesday they were suing US Internet giant Google for scanning thousands of their books for its online library without permission.
Publishers Gallimard, Flammarion and Albin Michel lodged a case with a Paris court demanding €9.8bn in damages ($14bn) and Google has been issued a summons, a source in Gallimard's legal department told AFP.
The publishers are suing for forgery, demanding the money as payment for nearly 1 000 books they say Google has digitally scanned without permission to make them available online.
The damages are for "a fixed tariff of 1 000 per scanned book to which the publishers own the rights," said the legal representative who asked not to be named.
"We limited ourselves to books that we are sure have been reproduced" by Google for its vast worldwide library project, which has already scanned some 12 million books.
Google responded by insisting its book-scanning activities were legal and said it was examining the summons.
"We were surprised to receive this new claim... We remain convinced of the legality of Google Books and its compliance with French laws and international copyright," it said in a statement.
"We are committed to continue working with publishers to help them develop their digital offering and to make their works accessible to Internet users in France and abroad."
Another French publisher, La Martiniere, successfully sued Google over the same issue in 2009. In the United States, a court also overturned a deal Google had struck to scan masses of American books.
In November however Hachette Livre - the biggest publisher in France and second-biggest worldwide - licensed Google to scan out-of-print books for which it holds the rights.