China authors say Google violated copyrights

SHANGHAI Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:06pm EDT

A laptop screen shows the homepage of Google.cn. in Beijing June 8, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A laptop screen shows the homepage of Google.cn. in Beijing June 8, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A group representing authors in China has accused Google of violating copyrights with its digital library, a claim that Google denies by saying the service complies with international law.

Many major publishers and authors have taken up lawsuits against Google for its digitization of their works, accusing Google of copyright infringement. Google has already digitized 10 million books.

The China Written Works Copyright Society (CWWCS) believes Google scanned thousands of books, by over 500 Chinese authors, into its digital library without their permission or compensation, said spokesman Chen Qirong.

"Whether you are a small company or big company you still need to respect the copyright of the authors," Chen said.

Google countered by saying it had received permission from over 50 Chinese publishers who allowed the U.S. search giant to digitize more than 30,000 books to be found through Internet searches and for preview.

"We believe the book search complies with international copyright law," said Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne.

Google's plan to create a massive digital library has been praised for bringing broad access to books but has also been criticized on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.

The fresh controversy, which made headlines in domestic Chinese media, is the latest in a string of operational problems in China for Google, which lags homegrown titan Baidu in China's search market.

In June, a Chinese official accused Google of spreading obscene content over the Internet. The comments came a day after Google.com, Gmail and other Google online services became inaccessible to many users in China.

Piracy is rampant in China where media are frequently censored over content on sensitive subjects.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Doug Young)

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