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December 30, 2009

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Shanghai novelist in Google battle

A CHINESE novelist is suing Google Inc for scanning her work into its online library.

Mian Mian, a writer known for her lurid tales of sex, drugs and nightlife, filed suit in October after the United States search giant scanned her latest book, "Acid House."

After a two-hour hearing yesterday, a Beijing judge told the two sides to hold talks on a settlement and report back, said her lawyer, Sun Jingwei. He said Mian Mian, who was not at the hearing, wants damages of 61,000 yuan (US$8,950) and an apology.

A Google spokeswoman in Beijing, Marsha Wang, said the company removed Mian Mian's works from its library as soon as it learned of the lawsuit.

"We think even if they remove Mian Mian's work, their previous behavior is a violation of her rights," Sun said. "We demand a public apology."

Sun said a negotiated settlement was a possibility and the court set no deadline.

Google's plans to make printed works available online has faced opposition from writers in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Google has scanned more than 10 million books, many of them still under copyright.

In China, a government-affiliated group, the China Written Works Copyright Society, is calling on Google to negotiate compensation for Chinese authors whose work is scanned into its library.

Wang said Mian Mian's lawsuit was the first she knew of in China over the scanning plan.

Mian Mian, who lives in Shanghai, shot to fame in 2000 when she published the novel "Candy," which caused a stir with its graphic depiction of heroin use.

Sun said Mian Mian had no connection to the Chinese writers' group.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, negotiated a US$125 million settlement last year with American authors and publishers. It is waiting for court approval after objections by US regulators and other companies that said it might hurt the growth of the electronic book market.

The Chinese writers' group said it had found more than 80,000 works by Chinese authors scanned into the library and called on Chinese writers to band together to negotiate terms with Google instead of taking the matter to court.


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