The plan, to be unveiled next March, calls for free access to works described as part of the national heritage and payment for access to works under copyright.

“The stakes are high,” Racine told a news conference. “One of the complaints levelled at Google was that it digitised works without paying regard to copyright.”

Current costs over the next three years for collecting, scanning into digital format, and conservation total some 26 million euros (38 million dollars) provided by the state, “the highest such funding in Europe”, according to the BNF.

European national libraries joined forces in 2005 against a planned communications revolution by Internet search giant Google to create a global virtual library.

The result was the European Digital Library (EDL), involving 34 national libraries across the continent.

“The BNF is currently involved in massive digitisation and the crucial question is how to keep the process going in perpetuity,” Racine said.

“We need to set up an intelligent digital warehouse, a conservation system that safeguards them forever, even under changes of format.”

Racine also announced that the library’s historic home in the centre of Paris, which houses some 20 million documents, is to undergo a five-year 150-million-euro (219-million-dollar) restoration programme kicking off in 2009. It will remain partially open to the public during that time.

in AFP