Chinese Authors Mull Action Over Google Book Settlement

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A Chinese authors' group is considering legal action against Google over its book scanning project, adding to the list of countries where it has faced opposition.

The China Written Works Copyright Society is considering whether to take action of its own over Google's project to scan thousands of copyright books. The project is already the subject of a court case in the U.S., brought by authors there.

Possible legal action from the Chinese group is still months away, though, while members decide whether to accept the U.S. settlement, said a group representative who asked not to be named. The group has found at least 570 Chinese authors and 17,000 Chinese written works included in Google's U.S. program, though not all those works have been scanned yet, the representative said.

Chinese companies and industry groups have increasingly used the country's courts to combat copyright infringement, though more often for the piracy of music and videos online than for books. But illegally copied material of all types remains widely available both online and offline in China. Pirated DVDs are often sold on street corners beside stacks of pirated books ranging from Harry Potter novels to classic self-help titles.

Google is in the final stages of reaching a settlement with two U.S. organizations, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, which brought copyright infringement lawsuits against the search company for its book scanning project. A U.S. court has given the parties until early next month to revise their current settlement agreement and ensure its compliance with antitrust and copyright laws.

At least one Chinese author spoke out against the settlement. "They want to get people to go away for just 60 dollars? They're dreaming!" one author was quoted as saying by the China Youth Daily, which is run by the Communist Party. The current Google settlement offers copyright holders compensation of at least US$60 for each work the company scanned without permission.

Any legal charges by the Chinese author group would likely be brought in the U.S., where an international treaty requires the protection of copyrights held in China, the group representative said.

The group will also work to protect its members from copyright infringement in China, but the group's scope remains small since it was founded just last year, the representative said.

"The Internet is relatively messy at present," the representative said. "There is no payment standard for republication. ... In the future we will also actively push in the area of online copyright."

Google did not reply to a request for comment.

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