Multiple venues (AP, AFP, NYT) are reporting that Google has apologized to Chinese authors whose books it scanned and promised to turn over a list of the books it has scanned. Piecing together the stories, this is my understanding of the state of affairs:
- The letter and apology went to the China Writers Association.
- Google is in talks with the China Written Works Copyright Society “to try to resolve outstanding copyright issues and agree terms for compensation” (AFP). According to the letter, Google “Google plans to work out a settlement proposal with Chinese writers by March and reach a formal agreement by June.” (NYT)
- Novelist Mian Mian is pursuing an individual civil lawsuit against Google.
As the precise legal status of the CWS and CWWCS remains unclear to me, it would be unwise for me to speculate further on how what all of this means. The CWS is an “association of 8,000 Chinese writers” (NYT) and is “one of the groups leading accusations against Google” (AFP). The CWWWCS is described by the AP as “government-affiliated” and the NYT explains that it “manages Chinese copyrights.” Further deponent sayeth not.
UPDATE: I believe that this is the website of the CWWCS. I am given to understand by correspondents that CWWCS:
- Has been approved by the Chinese government as a collecting society.
- Is the only collecting society currently in operation in China for literary works.
- Represents authors on an opt-in basis.
- Is not a member of IFRRO, and it is unclear whether it will be.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a Chinese entity of this sort, whether it should be classed as “governmental” or “private” does not appear to be a question with a determinate answer.