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Friday, June 26, 2009
Google should help make copyright agency: lawyer
By TOMOKO OTAKE
Google Inc. should help create a Japan-based copyright dispute settlement agency over Japanese books the firm has scanned as part of its massive online library project, a lawyer representing 182 authors in Japan said Wednesday.
Junji Suzuki, a U.S.-based lawyer representing members of the Japan Visual Copyright Association, told a meeting in Tokyo that he sent a letter to Google's Mountain View, Calif., head office last week with the hope of negotiating with the Internet giant the creation of a Japan-based registry of all Japanese books Google plans to make available online, similar to a "book rights registry" to be established in the United States.
Google has agreed to pay for the establishment of the U.S.-based registry under a settlement it reached last October with the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild, which had filed a class-action suit against it in 2005.
Under the settlement, which still needs court approval, Google would fork out $34.5 million to set up and fund the initial operations of the registry.
Google has already scanned more than 7 million books through tieups with universities and public libraries, including Keio University in Tokyo.
The firm would then use the registry to pay copyright holders 63 percent of all revenues it plans to make by selling access to its gigantic online database of book contents and through other businesses.
The registry would be responsible for locating and collecting information from copyright holders, as well as make payments to them, according to the settlement. And because the settlement was a result of a class-action suit, the results would be applied to copyright holders around the world.
But for Japanese, a registry in the U.S. is not good enough, Suzuki argued, noting many authors cannot afford to travel to the U.S. or hire U.S.-based attorneys every time they have a copyright issue to resolve with Google.
"Digitization of books will be inevitable in the future, regardless of whether Google does it or someone else does it," Suzuki told a Shinjuku conference room packed with 200 people, mostly from Japanese publishing houses. "But what is at stake now is how much control we should give Google to manage copyrights."
Suzuki said he wants to work with other copyright associations in Japan, whose responses to the Google project have varied from outright rejection to cautious approval.
At the JVCA, which has 367 members, 182 have expressed their will to "opt out" of the settlement so far. But Suzuki said the issue goes far beyond that of the 182, adding he wants to involve government agencies and lawmakers in Japan in creating a legal buffer against what some fear could lead to Google's monopoly of access to all books around the world.
For long, many people in Japan were out of the loop and had very little information about the Google library project until late February, when Google issued a legal notice in eight Japanese publications, stating that people outside the U.S. could be affected by the settlement. The news that all books distributed within Japan could be considered "out of print" and therefore could be sold by Google for profit — and that the copyright holders must opt out by May 5 — sent shock waves across the publishing industry here.
Later, the "opt-out" deadline was extended to Sept. 4. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the U.S. suit also visited Japan in late May, explaining that books sold only in Japan will not be considered out of print. But Suzuki remains wary of the lawyers' comments, saying those are the words of the plaintiffs, not Google's.