Writers sue Apple for millions over pirated book apps

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 January, 2012, 12:00am


Beijing's procuratorate, or public prosecutor, has placed a case on file that computing giant Apple is involved in pirating books by mainland writers.

The Writers' Rights Alliance, representing nine authors, filed the case with the Beijing No2 Intermediate People's Court, Alliance spokesman Bei Zhicheng said. The group is seeking about 12 million yuan (HK$14.7 million) in compensation for copyright violation.

The alliance was set up in late 2010 after finding that hundreds of applications at Apple's App Store offered unauthorised downloads of their books.

Apple Computer in Beijing was not available for comment yesterday.

In late September, the alliance filed the case accusing Apple's App Store of profiting from pirated versions of 37 works by the nine writers, who include novelists and popular bloggers Han Han , Murong Xuecun , Kong Ergou and He Ma .

Bei said another 10 well-known writers joined the alliance this month to sue Apple on the same charge. 'Nanpai Sanshu, who was second on the top rich list of Chinese writers, is one of them. These authors will also demand large compensation from Apple for violating their intellectual-property rights.'

Bei believes more Chinese authors will be encouraged to join them as the case progresses.

The alliance said it was disappointed that Apple had failed to tighten its monitoring and remove the pirated books.

'We have been sending lawyers' letters to Apple since July but it hasn't vetted and blocked those applications containing pirated books,' Bei said, adding that Apple pocketed 30 per cent of each app's sale.

'Many Chinese consumers trust Apple and pay to download electronic books,' Bei said. 'They don't know what they are buying is actually pirated.'

Well-known writer Murong Xuecun said: 'All of my products have been pirated online. The authorities offer little support for authors to protect their rights. We have to detect and prove the piracy by products sold by Apple. But only Apple can offer the proper evidence.

'The compensation standard for copyright piracy is also not reasonable,' Murong said.

The same group of authors successfully petitioned Baidu, China's largest internet search engine, to remove 2.8 million documents containing their material from Baidu Library in March. However, new pirated versions usually appear on the Baidu site within a month of removal, Bei said.

'The behaviour of Apple's App Store is more detrimental than Baidu Library's because Baidu provided the downloads for free, while Apple receives commissions and does not stop the infringement during its review process,' Bei said.