Google silent on copyright dispute

By Xie Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-23 07:26
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BEIJING - China's most influential writers say they are still waiting for Google to provide a solution to a copyright dispute in which the popular Internet company scanned books without authors' permission.

The Chinese Writers' Association (CWA), received a letter from Google in January in which the company apologized to Chinese writers for the use of the books, and promised to lay out a proposal for an agreement to end the dispute by March this year.

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A final agreement was expected by June, the letter said.

"We hope Google will respond as scheduled. Let's wait and see," Yang Chengzhi, a senior official with the CWA, told China Daily on Monday.

The CWA's comments come ahead of an expected announcement by Google about its future plans in China.

It is still not clear if Google, the world's largest Internet search engine, will withdraw from the country. The company said in January it was considering leaving China because of censorship requirements and alleged hacker attacks.

Yang said the association and Google Books had not been in contact since early January, when Google halted the fourth round of negotiations with China's copyright society.

She did not say whether CWA had a back-up plan if Google did not provide a solution to the copyright issue.

Zhang Hongbo, deputy director of the China Written Works Copyright Society, which is responsible for formal negotiations with Google, told China Daily the association had tried to contact Google Books but failed to get any response.

"I sent text messages, e-mails and called Google Books' negotiator several times during the Spring Festival, but I haven't received a reply," he said.

Zhang said whether or not Google leaves China, the association would not stop fighting for the rights of writers.

"Google Books has not only got troubles in China. My organization is in touch with copyright societies in Australia and Europe to exchange ideas," Zhang said.

According to a list provided by Google at the end of 2009, its online library includes some 80,000 Chinese books, 10 percent of which are works by 2,600 members of the CWA. The authors were neither informed nor paid money by the company. The copyright society said the number of scanned books could surpass 200,000.

Lin Lin, a public relations manager entrusted by Google to handle the copyright case, gave no comment.

Officials from Google's book project recently reached an agreement with the Italian culture ministry, which will allow the scanning of 1 million books in the national libraries of Rome and Florence.

However, Google will pay for the access, with estimated costs reaching $135 million.