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Google sorry for 'poor communication' in China

The Web giant acknowledges that it has not handled the concerns of Chinese authors in the best fashion, apologizing to them in hopes of reaching an agreement later this year.

This post was updated at 3:10 p.m. PST with a new headline and more details after Google said translation errors in earlier reports mischaracterized the nature of its apology to Chinese authors. See below.

Google apologized over the weekend to authors in China whose books it scanned as part of the Google Books project and promised to stop scanning books in that country.

Tensions had built between Chinese author groups and Google--as they have in many other parts of the world--over Google's decision to scan books by Chinese authors as part of its quest to build a digital library. According to IDG News Service, a Google representative read a statement on China's state broadcast network saying "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."

Google agreed to stop scanning books in China but hopes to reach an agreement with Chinese author groups later this year and to continue the project to everyone's satisfaction, according to the report. The company already faces a lawsuit from a prominent Chinese author over the project, and it's not clear whether Sunday's apology will have any effect on that case.

Back in the U.S., Google is scheduled to appear at a final hearing in New York on February 18 to approve its revised settlement. Authors affected by the settlement will have another opportunity to opt out and preserve their right to sue Google but face a deadline of January 28 to do so. Authors who had previously opted out but wish to participate in the settlement following revisions overseen by the Department of Justice can also do so by January 28.

UPDATED 3 p.m. PST: A Google representative said later on Monday that earlier reports incorrectly translated the text of its letter to Chinese authors groups, and therefore misinterpreted the nature of its apology. Google only apologized for its "poor communication" in dealing with Chinese authors, it said, and had not apologized for scanning books in China. In addition, it has not stopped scanning books by Chinese authors.

The original report from IDG News Service and an additional report from Bloomberg Business Week, which said Google apologized for scanning books, remain uncorrected as of Monday afternoon. A Wall Street Journal article says Google apologized for its "conduct" in China, and everyone seems to agree that Google and Chinese author groups are working on a formal agreement.