A cell-phone message writer is demanding more than 3 million yuan ($395,000) in compensation from Web portal Sohu.com, which he says continued to use his work after their contract had expired, a Shanghai court was told yesterday at a first hearing.
Fu Zhanbei, 39, from Jinhua in Zhejiang Province, told the Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People's Court he signed a one-year contract with Sohu.com through a company in his hometown on January 31, 2005.
He agreed to provide the site with 190 pieces of his work, which it would then sell as cell-phone messages.
Sohu charges 0.2 yuan to send a short message to a cell phone.
However, Fu said Sohu continued to sell his messages after the contract had expired.
"My work has been on top of the list of the most popular messages, and Sohu must have made lots of money from them," he said.
Wang Zhan, Fu's lawyer, said they calculated the 3.02 million yuan compensation based on Sohu's published income from its short message service (SMS).
In the second quarter of 2004, Sohu received $11.3 million from wireless services, about 80 percent of which came from SMS.
More than one-third of the country's 1.3 billion population has a cell phone, and short messages are a popular way for people to communicate on special occasions.
According to a recent report, in 2006, subscribers to China Mobile, one of the country's two mobile telephone service operators, sent and received almost 1 billion short messages every day.
Du Yu, 33, a bank employee, said it was convenient to buy messages from websites to send to friends, colleagues and clients.
"It would take too much time to key them in and send them," he said.
Fu said he was a writer of poems, film and TV scripts, but had recently started composing messages.
He said one well-written message could sell for thousands of yuan.
"And I can sell the same message to several websites," he said.
In 2005, he sent a selection of his work to Sohu.com.
But Sohu denied Fu was the owner of the messages.
According to the contract Sohu signed with the Jinhua Jinmofang Cultural Development Company, through which Fu signed the agreement, Jinhua is the rightful owner of the messages, Sohu's lawyers said.
"And the company agreed to let Sohu keep using the messages after the contract expired," Li Jingchuan, Sohu's attorney said.
However, he said the agreement was only verbal.
"We have no written evidence of it," Li said.
A verdict has yet to be reached.
Source: China Daily