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Google scores another book-scanning win in deal with Japanese writer group

The influential Japan PEN club has agreed not to take legal action in copyright disputes with the Google Library Project

Google has signed a legal peace treaty with a major Japanese writers' group over the company's book-scanning project, the latest in a string of global settlements around its efforts to digitize the world's books.

The company announced a joint agreement with the Japan P.E.N. Club, an influential domestic association of writers. The two sides said in statements posted online Monday that they have agreed to collaborate around Google's Library Project.

Google has scored several major agreements around its book digitization efforts in recent months. In October, it reached a settlement with the Association of American Publishers in the U.S., ending seven years of litigation, and in June it struck a deal to end legal tangling with two French organizations.

Crucially, the latest Japanese agreement includes a promise to avoid legal action on the scanning project. This is a reversal for Japan P.E.N, which had in the past expressed major reservations about the project and called it a clear violation of Japanese copyright laws.

"The Japan P.E.N. Club and Google have agreed not to use legal means to battle in the future, and if doubts arise over this agreement among P.E.N members in the future, the club will work to gain the understanding of those members," the group wrote in a statement posted online.

The group was apparently persuaded by promises from Google to quickly respond to requests by authors and publishers to exclude scanned works from search results, including works that have yet to be scanned.

The two sides said they have also agreed to work together on future translations of modern Japanese literature and to help make the genre more accessible. Japan P.E.N currently maintains a small, freely accessible digital archive of its own, with works in both Japanese and English.

The Japan P.E.N. club is the Japanese branch of PEN International, a global association based in London that fights for writers' rights. The P.E.N stands for poets and playwrights, essayists and editors, and novelists. The Japanese branch has often been led by influential and respected writers.

Google's Library Project is an ongoing effort by the company to scan in books around the world and add them to its massive database for search results. The company says it is focused on out-of-print books and other works that are normally hard to locate.

The project contrasts with online projects like Project Gutenberg, which aims to mainly recreate and offer online accurate versions of books that are currently in the public domain.


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