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INTERVIEW - Court ruling will not affect Italy ops - Google
ROME (Reuters) - A senior Google Inc. executive dismissed any impact on the company's Italian business from a court ruling on a cyber-bullying case, as the company unveiled a deal with the Italian government to digitise books.
A Milan court last month gave six-month suspended jail terms to three Google executives, convicting them of violating the privacy of an autistic Italian boy by letting a video of him being bullied be posted on the site in 2006.
The high-profile case shocked online activists who fear it could open the floodgates to other such prosecutions and force Internet companies to police content. But Google dismissed any impact from the case on its operations in Italy.
"Why would any legal process have an impact?" Nikesh Arora, Google's president of global sales and business development told Reuters on the sidelines of an event to unveil the books deal.
Google said it had agreed with the Italian government to scan up to a million Italian books from the national libraries in Rome and Florence.
"The fact that this is the first government in Europe to actually take such a step, this should give you an indication of our interest in Italy and our hope for our operations here," Arora said.
The deal is the first by Google's book unit with a government ministry. Italy's Culture Ministry put the cost of the project, which Google will fund, at 100 million euros ($136 million), but Arora said it was "much, much less".
Google's plans to digitise millions of books has divided opinion in many countries, with some praising it for expanding access to books while critics say it could violate antitrust and copyright laws.
The company has reached an agreement with U.S. publishers and authors to settle a lengthy lawsuit over its books project, which is currently being reviewed by a U.S. court. The settlement does not cover other countries.
Google said its Italian deal -- which would allow Internet users worldwide access to works by Dante and Niccolo Machiavelli among others -- would not face copyright issues in Italy since the books involved were all out of copyright.
(Editing by David Cowell)
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