Where Do Writers’ Rights End and Copyright Infringements Begin?

The age-old problem of copyright infringement is alive and well on the Internet. It seems even Google is not immune.

Starting tomorrow, hearings on copyright infringement by Google China begin in Beijing’s Haidian People’s Court. A Shanghai author is suing the company for scanning her book and making it part of Google’s digital library compilation without permission.

Mian Mian, 39, is seeking a reported $8,770 and an apology from Google China for scanning her book, Acid Lover. Although a large portion was removed from a website in November, she requests that it delete all of her work from its collection, claiming portions of it are still coming up on search engines.

As Internet companies clamor to become the prime (and only) source of news, entertainment and information, some of the old rules are quietly being kicked to the curb in the name of progress and technology.

While one popular writer’s meager settlement request may seem like a drop in the bucket, it is a monumental sign that not everyone believes in sharing information and creative works for “free.”

A class action suit against Google in the U.S. is also pending, begging the question, at what point is the line crossed on too much information?

People want things for free. This puts information portals like Google, Bing and Yahoo! at a distinct disadvantage to providing all of the information they can garner. It is, indeed, a fine line to walk. At what point does the movement to quench the thirst for information infringe on the rights of the creators?

Everyone needs to make a living, including information giants and creators alike. It used to be simple. If you want to read a book, buy it or wait a while and borrow it from the public library.

It’s not that simple anymore. This is sure to be a landmark case, the most recent in a long tug of war from the world’s creative contingent asking for fair compensation in a sea of free information readily available at the click of a mouse or the tap of a keyboard. As of today, Google China has yet to admit any wrongdoing.

While the world awaits the verdict in what is assured to be a long, drawn-out battle, Mian Mian is hoping for more than just money. One of her concerns is reportedly that portions of her work have been taken out of context, leaving readers to fill in the gaps. Another is that only large American publishing companies are immune from the copyright infringements.

For more information on the battle, check out this news story on China Daily’s website at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-12/16/content_9184029.htm.

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