Google apologizes to Chinese authors for book scanning

A group in China has demanded compensation for writers whose books Google scanned without permission

Google has apologized to a Chinese authors' group over its scanning of books by local writers into an online search system, moving to defuse copyright concerns around the project in China.

The Chinese Writers Association posted a copy of the Google statement on its Web site on Sunday. On the same day Erik Hartmann, an Asia-Pacific representative of Google Books, delivered the apology in a news program aired by China's state broadcaster.

China is one of several countries, including the U.S. and France, where Google's digital library program has faced legal challenges. The apology comes after the Chinese group demanded that Google compensate local authors whose works the U.S. search giant scanned without their approval.

Google is scanning hundreds of thousands of books, often without prior permission from their rights holders, so they can be searched and previewed on the Google Books service.

Google acknowledged in the statement that it had scanned books by Chinese writers. It also said it hopes to reach a general agreement over resolving the tensions by March and to sign a final agreement in the second quarter.

"Due to different starting notions and different understandings of the copyright law systems in China and the U.S., our behavior has caused discontent among Chinese writers," the statement said. "Our communication with Chinese authors has not been good enough. Google is willing to apologize to Chinese authors for this behavior."

Google has held talks with a local copyright protection group over the book service. One Chinese author, Shanghai-based Mian Mian, has brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google for scanning her novel Acid Lover and showing portions of it online.

A Google spokeswoman said Google Books complies with U.S. and Chinese law and that the company only shows snippets of copyright books for which it does not have permission from rights holders. Authors and publishers can choose to exclude their works from the service, she said.

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Owen Fletcher

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