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Negotiations between Chinese writers and Google at standstill

Updated: 2009-11-27 10:47

On Nov 20, Erik Hartmann, head of Google Book Search Strategic Partnership Development for Southeast Asia, came to China for the second round of talks with China Written Works Copyright Society (CWWCS). The dispute is over copyright issues of books being scanned and made available on Google's site. The result, however, was not satisfactory. There is still a long way to go.

Zhang Hongbo, deputy executive director-general of CWWCS, said that Google agreed to one request made by the Chinese side, which is to offer an inventory of the Chinese books it has already scanned. Google, however, did not promise to meet the rest of the Chinese side's requests, which were more substantial.

CWWCS wants Google to agree not to scan Chinese writers' works without authorization, and to submit solution and compensation proposals to the Chinese Writers Association (CWA) by the end of 2009.

Zhang believes the inventory is a step in the right direction, although there is still much more to discuss with Google in the future.

On Nov 14, Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers submitted their revised book settlement to the United States Federal Court. Accordingly, Google will soon compensate at least $60 for each book that it scans. Sixty-three percent of licensing revenues will go to the Book Rights Registry, which then forwards the appropriate amount to rights-holders, keeping an administrative fee. Authors will be able to control whether their books are included in the database, as well as what material can be read using Google's preview function.

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Google to talk with authors over copyrights

Previously, China's National Copyright Administration (NCA) had voiced its support for actions protecting Chinese writers. Wang Ziqiang, director of the department of Copyright Management under the NCA, said that although Google claims scanning books and allowing readers to browse them on the Internet is legal, Google has never provided relevant laws that support its argument.

Wang also noted that Google, via scanning, has digitized 18,000 works by more than 500 Chinese authors. As Google has infringed on Chinese writers' rights, Wang said, the NCA will support CWWCS and CWA to defend writers' rights in a legal manner.

In addition, Wang said that the traditional legal system concerning intellectual rights lags behind the Internet era. In both China and Western countries, a lot of the copyright disputes are clashes between old conceptions and modern technology such as the Internet, where massive information can be found free of charge.

Wang believes that for a final solution, a copyright authorization system should be established as a bridge between writers and the Internet industry. Meanwhile, relevant laws and regulations should be properly amended to balance the interests of authors, the web industry and the public, he said.