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Chinese Writers Sue Apple Over IP Violations 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the gentlemen-start-your-litigation dept.
hackingbear writes "A group of 22 Chinese authors have filed a claim against Apple, alleging its App Store sells unlicensed copies of their books. The Writers Rights Alliance, founded by Han Han, a young popular Chinese author and the worlds' most popular blogger, who is known for his cynical criticism of the government, petitioned Apple last year to stop electronic distribution of the writers' books and had earlier persuaded Baidu, China's largest search engine, to stop publishing their material on its Baidu Library product."
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Chinese Writers Sue Apple Over IP Violations

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  • by wrathpwn (1995376) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @07:02PM (#39398613)
    If it had been Apple or any other giant corporation who had been wronged, the victor of the case would be clear. I hope this guy wins his case and shows them that individuals have the same rights as giant organizations.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I hope this guy wins his case and shows them that individuals have the same rights as giant organizations.

      I hope that they're told to fuck right off until China starts listening to our copyright complaints.

  • Perhaps a third party publisher who believes they own the rights to publish the writings does, but it sure as hell won't be Apple.
  • by pikine (771084) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @07:17PM (#39398699) Journal

    Some third-party publisher, who have no agreement with the original author, uploaded the books to Apple for sale. Apple obliged, found the content to be reasonably tasteful, but didn't check if the third-party holds the copyright. The original author doesn't get a penny from the transaction. What makes it complicated is that Apple makes a percentage of the profit. If the original author did not agree to the profit structure, then Apple becomes an accomplice.

    My two minute judgment is that (after completing a motion to discover number of copies sold and transactions made) Apple should reverse any credit deposits to the third-party, and pay for the irreversible parts out of their pocket. Apple should forfeit their share of the proceeds from selling the unlicensed books. Apple will also pay for a small percentage for statutory damage. All these should go to the original author. Then the author has a right to choose whether they want to enter an agreement with Apple to continue selling their books, even negotiate a favorable rate if they want to.

    Meanwhile, Apple will be ordered to conduct a copyright check before selling. Apple might even start charging a fee to the publisher. This final point might change digital publishing landscape yet again.

    • Sure this is just me making assumptions and I have never published a book via Apple but one would expect that the standard form legalese involved in the transaction would clearly state "I the undersigned claim copyright over the published work and indemnify Apple against any lawsuits" (or words to that effect).

      If it doesn't then Apple deserve the resultant pain and suffering.
      • You can't indemnify an entity against lawsuits from a third party.

        • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @08:47PM (#39399223) Journal
          Yes you can, it would be weird to indemnify someone for a lawsuit filed by yourself.

          Basically what you are saying is, "I will pay for any costs incurred to you by lawsuits resulting from my negligence, lies, or mistakes." It's highly probably that such language is in the contract. What that means in China is somewhat more questionable.
        • by Kalriath (849904)

          It's not so much indemnity as liability shift. Basically, Apple would be held liable for the amount, but they have a contract permitting them to recover their liability via civil action from the party they have a contract with.

      • by Splab (574204)

        So basically, I can let anyone upload any works to my homepage - as long as I make sure to explicitly state that I expect the uploader to indemnify me? And on top of that I can make money on it?

        I can see no problem with this...

        • by Anonymous Coward
        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          Sure you can.

          And when you get sued and a court orders you to pay $10,000,000 to some party you can now ask that uploader for the $10,000,000 and take them to court for it if they don't cought up.

          Of course if they don't have $10,000,000 or the court doesn't consider your statement legaly binding or they are under a jurisdiction that won't enforce it then you are still liable for that $10,000,000 (or the part they didn't pay up anyway).

        • by CCurzon (1936782)

          You sure can, as long as you don't actively encourage illegal posts and agree to take them down once notified about them. Just like every site that has user generated content.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There will be a standard publishing contract. This isn't any different because it's Apple as publisher, or bits as ink. The publisher's contract will insist that the 'author' -- in this case the third party uploader -- holds true copyright.

      They didn't; they lied. So Apple has the same protection as ink publishers.

      Just like in the ink world, the original author sues the publisher. The publisher will now show in court who fed them the bogus goods, and the original author will then have to sue the bogus-er.

      The

      • Just like in the ink world, the original author sues the publisher. The publisher will now show in court who fed them the bogus goods, and the original author will then have to sue the bogus-er.

        I believe Apple's contracts also say that they can ask for all payments back. Actually, if you sell a book for $4.99, and Apple kept $1.50, if you stole the contents of the book Apple can ask for the whole $4.99. Whether there is anyone who can be made to pay is a different question.

        I think it would be quite reasonable for the real copyright holder to ask Apple in this case for the $3.49.

  • wait a minute... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alienzed (732782) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @07:48PM (#39398859) Homepage
    I thought Intellectual Property laws protected creators from other creators, not from retailers... Apple's terms and conditions clearly state that anything submitted to their store must be legal to sell in the first place. This is a grab for attention, nothing else, and the accusers are only wasting their time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I thought Intellectual Property laws protected creators from other creators, not from retailers... Apple's terms and conditions clearly state that anything submitted to their store must be legal to sell in the first place. This is a grab for attention, nothing else, and the accusers are only wasting their time.

      So it's perfectly legal to sell counterfeit goods so long as you didn't actually create said goods and your 'terms and conditions' state that you have been told by the supplier that the goods are legal to sell in the first place? Sounds like a nice way to absolve yourself of responsibility.

      • I thought Intellectual Property laws protected creators from other creators, not from retailers... Apple's terms and conditions clearly state that anything submitted to their store must be legal to sell in the first place. This is a grab for attention, nothing else, and the accusers are only wasting their time.

        So it's perfectly legal to sell counterfeit goods so long as you didn't actually create said goods and your 'terms and conditions' state that you have been told by the supplier that the goods are legal to sell in the first place? Sounds like a nice way to absolve yourself of responsibility.

        It's not "perfectly legal". It is, however, only slightly illegal and puts the majority of the financial burden on the company that has claimed the goods they are selling (or license they are granting) is legitimate.

      • by zullnero (833754)
        I wouldn't normally be one to stick up for Apple, but yes. If the company actively scans and rejects illegal material (and we know Apple does, because if you haven't gotten a rejection notice at least once, you don't have a lot of experience dealing with Apple...), and illegal material gets submitted and is accidentally approved regardless of the state of its legality, the only thing that Han Han can get out of a lawsuit is a takedown of the illegal works, as far as I know. IANAL, of course, but logically
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      As Apple isn't mailing out physical books, but instead is creating a copy on every sale, they are a content "creator" (as in distributor/copier), and thus are exactly who the copyright laws were written to cover. Apple's terms require that it be legal to sell. But that doesn't mean they are legally in the right once somone else disagrees with the rights as asserted by someone else, otherwise, 1984 would still be on Amazon Kindle. It was legally loaded up by someone with rights to do so, then sold elsewhe
      • A couple thoughts your post inspired:

        1) Most copyright laws are outdated and ill suited to account for digital content

        2) The international nature of digital distribution makes dealing with varying copyright laws a huge pain in the ass

        3) 1984 should be public domain (everywhere); it makes me wonder if it might be in Apple, Amazon, and B&N's best interests to lobby to have the Mickey Mouse Protection Act repealed or rewritten. Although this sounds promising, the thought makes me sad because I have no hope

      • As Apple isn't mailing out physical books, but instead is creating a copy on every sale, they are a content "creator" (as in distributor/copier), and thus are exactly who the copyright laws were written to cover.

        Apple is serving as a retailer here, not a publisher like Random House or Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Apple is not the content creator nor is it the publisher of said content. In this instance, it's a retail outlet only.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          They are a publisher. They just publish the books one at a time on demand, rather than running large batches of physical books.
          • A publisher holds some form of copyright on the work. That's not true in this case, despite what the troll plaintiffs claim.

    • by MacDork (560499)

      I thought Intellectual Property laws protected creators from other creators

      Funny, I thought they were To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts. [usconstitution.net]

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      try buying pirate apple products and then selling them in san fransisco and see if it's you who gets sued or that some factory in some eastern country which produced the products and sold them to you to retail.

  • I don't mean to sound too cynical, but what laws are being applied? Chinese laws? US laws? Some laws invented by the "disinterested" UN? IANAL, but I think there needs to be clear indication that China had laws on the books to uphold intellectual property rights of citizens, and the suit needs to happen in Chinese courts. Alternatively, these authors could file suit using US laws, but then they would have to do it in US courts.

  • The problem is that with this being China, it's not clear to me that Apple has actually violated any copyright law. For example, the business that was selling these works on Apple's App Store may have had copyright at the time, but had it taken away from them and transferred to this "Writers Rights Alliance" without their knowledge. Or they may still have the copyright and still be legally able to sell on the App Store. Or they might never have had the copyright, but did have the assistance from appropriate

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