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Copyrights take a bite out of Apple

By CAO YIN  (China Daily)

10:22, April 24, 2013

Electronics giant Apple Inc was ordered to compensate three Chinese writers a total in excess of 730,000 yuan ($118,000) for infringing their copyright, Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled on Tuesday.

However, experts said that copyright infringement on downloading platforms will continue and companies such as Apple will not change these services.

The cases were the second batch of lawsuits against Apple filed by the Writers' Right Protection Union, an organization that safeguards Chinese writers' online copyrights. The claim was that the writers' permission was not granted before their books were sold on the company's online App Store.

Wang Guohua, the writers' lawyers, told China Daily he was satisfied with the results. He said the compensation was higher than in most copyright infringement cases.

Apple's attorney refused to comment on the case.

Judge Feng Gang said Apple should take responsibility since, as a big online downloading platform, it has the duty of checking whether books uploaded by third parties are in line with current laws.

"The writers involved this time include Mai Jia, whose books are often on best-seller lists across the country," he said. "In this way, Apple has the capability to know the uploaded books on its online store violated the writer's copyright."

He suggested other technology companies with similar online platforms should learn from Apple's case and improve their verification systems to avoid similar disputes.

However, IT and copyright experts are pessimistic about the judge's suggestions.

Xie Wen, former president of Yahoo China, said other technology companies will not change the management of their downloading platforms, and such infringements will go on. Uploaded information is abundant and complicated, which means companies, no matter big or small, have huge difficulties in distinguishing infringements, he said.

"What they (companies) can do is make it stricter for publishers, but this may affect their online platforms' popularity and result in economic losses," Xie said.

Yang Shuo, a specialist with a decade of experience in cybermanagement, agreed. He said it is impossible for these companies to improve their verification systems with technical solutions.

"The verification must rely on human power, but some small companies won't spend money and time to employ people to do such work," he said. "So such disputes will be hard to avoid in the future."

Yu Guofu, a lawyer specializing in copyright cases, agreed with the IT experts, saying the compensation that Apple will pay is much lower than what it had received from downloading and publishers.

"Apple, a famous company, was required to compensate three people with only about 700,000 yuan, which will not worry other companies," he said. In addition, victims sometimes only concentrate on big online operators, so "smaller and less-famous online platforms can still get away with their infringements", Yu said.

"If the infringement cost becomes high and the punishment for violators becomes harsh, these companies will take their responsibility into consideration, and similar cases will be reduced."

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