March 20, 2012
It seems as though China had been turning the tables on Apple lately as far as intellectual property is concerned. While Apple, like most Western companies, has certainly had its share of China-made copycats, the California-based company is now facing three separate lawsuits involving breach of copyright of a number of books written by prominent Chinese writers. Wang Guohua, the writers' lawyer, said that up to 59 titles from their collective body of work were made available in Apple's iTunes Store without their prior authorization. At least 12 writers make up the group of plaintiffs, including popular novelist and race car driver Han Han, and together they are seeking no less than 23 million yuan ($3.5 million) in damages from Apple for alleged copyright infringement. The books in question were apparently uploaded by pirate developers. Having gone past Apple's review team, these books were made available in the iTunes Store, with Apple getting its 30% proprietary cut from their sales. According to Wang, some of the books were deleted by Apple when the suits were first filed last January, but they reappeared soon enough. Carolyn Wu, an Apple spokesman in Beijing, did not offer any statement specific to the allegations, but said that "we understand the importance of protecting intellectual property and when we receive complaints we respond promptly and appropriately." In fairness to Apple, its book-selling ecosystem, regardless of whether the items being sold are in the form of e-books or book apps, is still quite clean relative to all the muck that has been bogging down its rival Kindle Store. But unless Apple steps up its game in policing its online commercial outlets, it may just go the way of Amazon. And by the way, when the Chinese are suggesting that you may have committed an act of piracy yourself, you probably need to re-examine how you're running your business.