Google’s Chinese Apology Up in the Air

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Planned negotiations to end a copyright row between Google and a group of Chinese writers have been postponed, leaving a formal apology hanging in the air. The China Daily – which is always lying around the Komplett offices – has reported that Erik Hartmann, Google Book’s “top negotiator in China”, called his counterpart Zhang Hongbo, deputy director of China Written Works Copyright Society (CWWCS) early on  Tuesday morning (Chinese time) and said Google wanted to postpone the negotiations which were due to happen only a few hours later.

Google Books aren't apologising just yet to some very angry Chinese authors

Zhang said that Hartmann had not explained the “exact reason” for all of this, while it had been assumed that today would see a formal apology via press conference after Google had apparently backed down and agreed to hand over a list of books it has scanned in recent years by Chinese authors. The works were digitized without the permission of the Chinese authors in question and in an effort to placate them Hartmann, who runs the Asia-Pacific division of Google Books, had written a letter of apology to 8,000 members the China Writers’ Association over the weekend.

The initial apology noted that the company is sorry for any misunderstanding that might have angered authors – in total the case refers to the scanning 18,000 books by 570 Chinese writers – and said Google would work to forge an agreement on digitising books by early summer.

“We definitely agree that we haven’t done a sufficient job in communicating with Chinese writers,” Hartmann admitted. Not that the original apology went so far as to say that Google was stopping its current course of action when it comes to the Google Books project; all this case really does is back up their position that they will delete books from their Books Search library upon the request of any author or publisher.

Watch this space for a full apology. Or possibly all out war between China and Google.

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