Google Books project draws fire in China

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The Independent Culture

A China copyright group Wednesday accused Internet giant Google of scanning Chinese books for its online library without authorisation, in the latest criticism hurled at the controversial project.

The China Written Works Copyright Society told AFP its data showed at least 17,922 books had been scanned and included in Google Books, the Internet giant's project to digitise millions of books and post them online.

"Google has violated a widely-accepted international copyright rule that any scanning, collecting and using of protected works should obtain permission and pay a fee before usage," society deputy general-director Zhang Hongbo told AFP.

The society is a body tasked by China's government with collecting information on copyrights involving written material.

Zhang said the books involved the works of at least 570 Chinese writers, including government officials and prominent academics.

"None of the writers we contacted said he or she received any notice from Google for the usage of their works," Zhang said, adding they had not been paid either.

He said it was hard to estimate damages so far because new complaints from writers and publishers were coming in "every day".

Zhang said his group would ask Google to acknowledge the infringement of Chinese copyrights and seek a negotiated solution, but he did not rule out a lawsuit.

Officials at Google China were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP.

Google Books has faced copyright criticism worldwide.

Google and US authors and publishers reached a settlement last year over a copyright infringement suit filed against Google in 2005.

Under the settlement, Google agreed to pay 125 million dollars to resolve outstanding claims and establish an independent "Book Rights Registry," which would provide revenue from sales and advertising to authors and publishers who agree to digitise their books.

But it has met opposition on copyright and anti-trust grounds from rival technology companies, privacy advocates, consumer groups, and the US Justice Department, which asked a US judge to bring the parties back to the table.

The German and French governments have also filed objections to the settlement, which the US judge has ordered be revised by November 9.