Chinese Writers Forum Petition Apple Over Book Downloads

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A group of Chinese authors have filed petition against Apple Inc and Baidu Inc to stop publishing their books in the electronic format without their permission.

Apple allows users to download e-books through various applications in Apples App Store.

Bei Zhicheng, the spokesman for the forum, said that Apples App store received commissions for the downloads, while Baidus services were for free. He also added, many Chinese books on Apples App Store do not have permission from the copyright owners.

The potential loss for the authors could be as much as 1 billion yuan (US$155 million).

Alliance

An alliance was established in Beijing to help Chinese writers fight against copyright infringements. Five writers and five publishers initiated the forum. Han Han, a best-selling novelist and a popular and outspoken blogger, is also a member in the forum.

Bei Zhicheng, the spokesman for the forum, said, “The goal of the alliance is to completely eliminate copyright infringement in China.”

The forum raised an initial fund of more than 3 million yuan (US $ 450,000) from individual donations. The alliance will represent authors in legal action against copyright violations. It has already signed 30 authors to represent them.

The alliance will return 80 percent of the compensation to writers if they win lawsuits, while retaining 20 percent for working funds. The working fund will be utilized to collect evidence and launch lawsuits against “big-name” violators.

The alliance will help writers save money, time, and energy in legal procedures, and is expected to file more than 100 lawsuits a year, Bei Zhicheng said.

Chinese copyright law

The protection of intellectual property rights in China lack strict enforcement of the law. It is a source of trade friction between China and foreign multinational companies.

In the past two years, music companies have taken legal action against Baidu for copyright infringement over its Mp3 search service. The service allowed users to easily search and download music for free.

The lawsuits against Baidu, which lasted many years, absolved Baidu from all blame.

Finally, the music companies came to terms with Baidu, granting them copyrights, while agreeing to share advertising revenue in Baidus free MP3 download service.

In March 2011, Chinas National Copyright Administration (NCA) investigated Baidu for copyrightinfringement of books. Fifty of Chinese well-known authors wrote a public letter, claiming Baidu Wenku (or Baidu Libary) infringes their copyrights. The letter is circulated in Sina Weibo (Twitter in China).

The authors claim that Baidu Wenku (Baidu Libary), which allows users to read free e-book online, is killing the future of Chinese book authors. They believe there are still many unlicensed ones on its system. In the long run, there will be no new books to read.

“People have to gather together to take legal action against companies like Apple,” said Sun Xiangyuan, a Shanghai-based lawyer.

Sun is representing Zhu Jintai, a Hunan Province-based writer, in a lawsuit against Apple. His novel “Vampire Notes,” or “Gan Shi Bi Ji” was sold at US$2.99 per download from Apple’s online store since November 2010 without his permission.

Zhu has asked a compensation of 50,000 yuan and an apology from Apple. But the lawsuit is expected to cost “several dozen thousand yuan” before he wins.

Apple China declined to comment, while Baidu officials were unavailable.

If there are more copyrights belonging to Chinese citizens or Chinese companies, one can believe that the government will have a real incentive to enforce copyright protection.

Source: Reuters, Shanghai Daily, Gulf News

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