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Following a significant period of inactivity (brought on by outright hostility), Google Books has made a breakthrough.  France’s largest publisher has agreed to an arrangement that’ll allow Google Books to scan many of its out-of-print works.

The last time we heard about Hachette Livre and Google was probably when Hachette objected to the Google Books Settlement about a year ago.  Also, we should note that a French court convicted Google of copyright violations a few months later.  This announcement comes as a definite surprise, then.

Still, the basic deal is in place.  Max Colchester reported this afternoon, "Under the agreement, which will be finalized in the coming months, Hachette Livre can dictate which out-of-print books it wants Google to scan and the price at which they are sold.  Google is then free to sell the electronic book under the condition that it shares the revenues with Hachette Livre, a unit of Lagardre SCA."

The arrangement is supposed to involve thousands of books, too, not just a handful for which Hachette has no use.

As a result, Dan Clancy, the director of Google Books, characterized the whole thing as "a big break-through in terms of developing a framework that will work more generally in Europe.  It reasserts the control of the publisher . . . while making the books accessible to users," he told Colchester.

It should be interesting to see if Google’s able to press this advantage and seal deals with any other publishers.