Chinese writers sue Apple for copyright violation

Updated: 2012-01-10 07:43

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Nine Chinese writers sued Apple Inc for violating copyright and demanded compensation totaling 12 million yuan ($1.9 million).

The move was the latest attempt by writers to protect their rights online as more readers turned to e-books, lawyers said.

Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court has accepted the lawsuit jointly filed by Chinese writers like Han Han, Li Chengpeng and He Ma, an official at the court said on Monday.

"The court is examining documents and materials provided by those writers, as each of them has his or her compensation requests," court official Li Zhitao said, adding the first trial may open after the Spring Festival, which falls on Jan 23.

The writers, claiming Apple allows its users to download pirated books through its platform App Store, are determined to fight for their rights, says Bei Zhicheng, an executive of Writers' Union, an organization established in July 2011 to safeguard Chinese writers' copyright online.

Bei said Apple's lack of a positive response to the writers' complaint made them take the case to court.

The company - whose innovative products including iPhone and iPad changed the IT industry - had said the writers failed to provide enough materials and the e-mail they sent in July 2011 was not in line with the format Apple required, according to Bei.

"That's the typical reply we got from Apple, and to be precise, we received similar replies from Apple three times," he said.

China has at least 15 million iPhone users and the country is now Apple's second largest market.

The books in question were still available on App Store, even after "it was informed about the violations", Bei said.

On Apple's online store, many bestsellers have been downloaded several million times, but most of these were pirated editions, he said.

Apple did not comment on the case.

An employee working at the public relations department of Apple China, who only gave his surname as Huang, said on Monday that the company was too busy with the launch of iPhone 4S in Beijing, scheduled on Jan 13, to pay attention to the case.

Yu Guofu, a Beijing-based lawyer specializing in the intellectual property rights at Shengfeng Law Firm, said the case reflected Chinese writers' rising awareness of copyright violations and would help spread it among the public.

"As a platform supplying online books, Apple has the responsibility to review the products on its platform," he said.

A weak awareness of intellectual property rights among the public compounds the case of online piracy.

"I don't care if the book I read is pirated or not," said Yin Qiming, who often downloaded books using his iPhone. For him it was the price that mattered.

In March 2011, more than 40 Chinese writers posted an open letter online, accusing Baidu, China's largest Internet search engine, of reprinting their books online without permission.