Writers Sue Site for Copyright Infringement

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This has happened before, with very limited success. We’ll see whether significant compensation is awarded this time. From Xinhua:

Seven award-winning writers are suing a Beijing-based reading website for copyright infringement, the second case of its kind since former culture minister Wang Meng won in a 1999 lawsuit over another IT company on similar violations.

Li Mingsheng, Zhang Kangkang, Zhang Ping, Lu Yuegang, Wang Hongjia, Qiu Huadong and Xu Kunlian, all winners of national literary awards, accused Beijing Sursen Electronic Technology Company of using their masterpieces on its website without paying them. They claimed about 1.6 million yuan (213,000 U.S. dollars) in compensation.

Beijing‘s Haidian District Court accepted the lawsuit and has begun investigating, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Thursday. The court said there will be a further hearing but has not yet fixed a date for it.

Li, who claimed to represent the other writers, said that in 2006 he stumbled upon 11 of his own works on the website, www.du8.com, which is owned and operated by Sursen. They had been put there without his knowledge.

Li said after direct contacts with the company, it acknowledged copyright infringement and agreed to compensation. However no compensation has been made, Li said.

Li, a writer with a military background and best known for his military novels, said he conducted investigations himself in the following year and found Sursen has scanned literary works of many Chinese writers. He alleged that Sursen had illegally pasted them on its website, which charges for online reading.

Meanwhile, Li alleged that the company also produced CD-ROMs and sold them to libraries and archives nationwide, the newspaper reported.

All the seven writers refused out-of-court settlement with the website, and they have employed the intellectual property attorney who helped win the 1999 lawsuit.

In 1999, writer-turned Culture Minister Wang Meng and another six writers charged a Beijing website with intellectual property violations. Their victory, however, was symbolic as none of the writers was paid more than 2,000 U.S. dollars in compensation.

2 responses on “Writers Sue Site for Copyright Infringement

  1. Chris Devonshire-Ellis

    We had similar problems earlier this year with our China Expat brand and website, which details a lot of information and original content concerning China travel and culture. The Confucius Institute of all people were ripping us off. The story is here: http://www.chinaexpat.com/blog/josh/2007/07/10/why-confucius-institute-online-stealing-content.html
    If you have copyright original content it’s a good idea to search for it online occasionally to see if it crops up on other peoples sites. We get ripped off on a regular basis and our inhouse IP lawyer is always busy getting stuff taken down or issuing writs. We sued an unnamed American lawyer well known to Stan awhile back in Hong Kong for similar IP infringements. The trick is, always check it out and always play tough. It’s stealing. It never stops in China, but you can usually nip each infringement in the bud.

  2. Stan Post author

    Probably doesn’t need mentioning, but the big problem with enforcing copyrights is the cost/benefit analysis. It’s pretty cheap to monitor and send letters, but anything more, and you really need to consider whether it’s all worth it. That’s why it would be nice to see some writers get a significant damage award. Enough of those, and the dynamic may change.