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Google Faces Chinese Lawsuit Over Digital Book Project

December 28, 2009

Internet hulk Google is being sued by the provocative Chinese author Mian Mian for an alleged violation of copyright laws, her lawyer announced on Monday.

In the first civil lawsuit to be leveled against Google in China, the case is bound to draw even more negative press to the Web giant’s already controversial plans for a massive Web-based digital library.

Mian’s attorney, Sun Jinwei, told AFP reporters that the case will open on Tuesday in Beijing. “Tomorrow afternoon at the Haidian court, representatives from both sides will hand over evidence.  After that I will be preparing our case and I figure that the actual trial will take place next year,” said Sun.

Ms. Mian “” who has won the accolades of international critics in recent years for her sordid tales of the Chinese underground “” is suing Google for a $8,900 dollars in damages, alleging that the company scanned her most recent novel “Acid Lovers” into its online catalogue without her consent.

Dubbed China’s “literary wild child,” Mian’s novels tell lurid stories of Chinese pimps, prostitutes and drug-dealers “” subjects still largely considered taboo in Chinese mainstream culture.  While her books have been translated and sold in a multitude of other languages, they are ironically still banned in China.

Representatives of the China Written Works Copyright Society claim that thousands of Chinese works have been illegally scanned and posted to Google Books.

The organization has entered into formal talks with Google and says that the deliberations are “progressing well,” according to the Chinese government’s official newspaper Global Times.

“First we want Google to admit their mistake and apologize, then we can talk about compensation,” the organization’s deputy director-general Zhang Hongbo was quoted as saying. “At the same time,” he added, “we don’t want Google to give up China in its digitized library project.”

The Chinese branch of the Internet giant has not yet commented on Mian’s case or negotiations with the Copyright Society.

The current imbroglio in China is merely the most current in a series of controversies over Google’s envelope-pushing literary digitization project.  The company continues to take flak from both authors and publishing houses around the world and has already had to deal with civil suits in the United States, France and Germany.

In 2008 settlement with US authors and publishers, Google agreed to pay some $125 million to resolve outstanding copyright infringement claims and to set up a separate division within the company that would be dedicated to channeling sales and advertising revenue to authors and publishers who agreed to let their works be digitized.

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