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January 11, 2010

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Google on back foot over China book scans

THE Chinese Writers' Association said yesterday it had received a written apology from United States Internet giant Google Inc over copyright infringements.

Google admitted in the document, which was sent to the CWA on Saturday, that it had scanned books under Chinese copyright for its online library.

The action have caused widespread dissatisfaction among Chinese writers.

"Following discussions and communications in recent months, we do believe that our communication with Chinese writers has not been good enough," it said in the letter, which bore the signature of Erik Hartmann, Asia-Pacific head of Google Books.

"Google is ready to apologize to Chinese writers about this."

It said in the document that Chinese books were an integral part of its book-search service and it would like to settle the dispute with Chinese writers through negotiations with the China Written Works Copyright Society.

Google also promised not to scan books in the future without authorization from Chinese writers.

The company said it planned to work out a settlement proposal and the framework of an agreement by March.

A formal agreement was expected to be reached by June, it said.

Yang Chengzhi, a CWA official, said yesterday that the association hoped the apology was sincere and that promises would be honored.

She said the CWA would not have direct talks with Google but would wait until satisfactory results emerged.

In October 2008, CWWCS officials revealed about 18,000 titles of books from 570 Chinese writers had been scanned by Google, with authors neither informed nor paid.

According to a list provided by Google at the end of 2009, its online library involves about 80,000 categories of Chinese books, 10 percent of which are works of 2,600 members of the CWA.

The company is working on a complete list of the scanned Chinese books, according to the document.


It said the move was unprecedented and the company hoped Chinese writers felt its sincerity in wanting to settle the issue.

Google has been working in the past five years on an ambitious plan to scan all the world's books into a digital library accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Google has said the project is a great chance for books to get more exposure, but many authors and publishers say it is a copyright violation.

On November 18 last year, the CWA issued a notice announcing its determination to defend writers' copyright.

Three rounds of negotiations have been carried out between the CWWCS and the US company. The fourth round begins tomorrow.


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