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Chinese writers stuck on apology over Google copyright dispute

Post Time:2009-11-06 Source:Xinhua Author: Views:
BEIJING, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- Chinese writers Wednesday said they appreciated search engine firm Google’s move to talk with them, but maintained their demand for an apology for copyright violation.

"Some progress was made during the talks with Google officials on Monday," Zhang Hongbo, deputy director of the China Written Works Copyright Society (CWWCS), a non-governmental organization that represents writers on copyright issues, told Xinhua.

"Such communication itself is positive to resolving the problem," he said. "We appreciate attempts to promote China’s excellent works internationally in digital form. What we are against is doing that illegally with infringement and piracy."

The second round of talks is likely to be held in mid November, Zhang said. "A consultant group of experts on intellectual property rights and network technologies would join the CWWCS in the coming talks."

Google’s Beijing office confirmed to Xinhua negotiation had been held with the CWWCS but did not give further details on the talks.

More than 50 writers have signed a letter to demand an apology from Google and compensation last month.

They accused Google of scanning more than 18,000 books by 570 Chinese writers without any notice and payment.

"The first goal of our actions and talks is to urge Google to admit and apologize for its infringement," Zhang said.

Although Google admitted that it had scanned more than 20,000 books under Chinese copyright for its online library at the talks on Monday, the company still denied any copyright violation, he said.
Erik Hartmann, the Asia-Pacific head of Google Books, said in a statement to Xinhua that the company had obtained authorization from the publishers and libraries in the United States and did not use them directly for profit.

"Not all the writers have transferred their online copyright to the publishers in their contracts. So Google cannot get authorization for every book simply from its publisher," Zhang said.

He also objected to Google’s other argument that its on-line library did not violate copyrights as it only put abstracts of Chinese books online instead of full texts.

"This cannot justify failing to inform the authors," he said.

Hartmann ascribed the anger of Chinese writers to misunderstanding of Google’s project, but showed respect to their concern on copyright.

Prof. Liu Deliang, head of the Beijing-based Asia-Pacific Institute for Cyber-law Studies, suggested that a more careful examination was needed to decide whether Google’s conduct fell within "fair use", a major defense against infringement claims.

"A prevailing opinion in the cyber era is that providing information without charging fees directly from users does not necessarily mean using them for non-business purposes," Liu said.

For example, he said, it would be profitable if advertising was carried on the website page.

"It also depends on elements like the extent of the usage and injury to the copyright holders," he said.
Google offered to pay 60 U.S dollars for each scanned book and 63 percent of income from online reading in the United States.

But Zhang said the CWWCS would not accept such settlement.

"Due payment is also on the schedule of our negotiations, but it is not the first priority," he said.

Zhang called more Chinese writers to defend their legal rights. So far most of the writers joining this campaign were literary writers.

"Many authors of scientific research papers did not even know what was going on," he said.

Zhang expressed concerns about the practice of similar digital libraries in China.

"They are all in the same dilemma with Google, risking copyright violation or having to obtain permission from every writer. That is the reason why domestic online libraries started operation years ago, but developed slowly," he said.

Online libraries would have difficulty efficiently securing deals without organizations representing writers, but very few such organizations existed in China and they only represented some authors, Liu said.

The CWWCS is representing about 2,000 writers in China on their collective copyright affairs.