Apple loses three copyright infringement cases in China


Apple has lost three copyright infringement cases in China as No.2 Intermediate People’s Court ruled Tuesday that the iPhone maker’s App Store infringed on the copyrights owned by Beijing-based Motie Press and Chinese writers Mai Jia and Yu Zhuo.

As part of the ruling, Apple was ordered to pay damages of CNY 520,000, or approximately $141,563 to Motie Press, in addition to CNY 200,000 (about $54,447) to Mai Jia and CNY 10,000 (about $2,722) to Yu Zhuo…

This was first reported Tuesday by The China News Service, a major state-owned news organization in the People’s Republic of China.

The following day, a report filed by China Daily asserted Apple had not gotten permission from the Chinese writers before selling their books on the App Store.

Judge Feng Gang noted Apple was obliged to check whether the book apps complied with current local laws:

The writers involved this time include Mai Jia, whose books are often on bestseller lists across the country. In this way, Apple has the capability to know the uploaded books on its online store violated the writers’ copyright.

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.

Back in December 2012, a Beijing court ordered Apple to pay 1.03 million yuan, or about $165,000, to a group of local writers who said the company sold unlicensed copies of their books online.

Judge Gang proposed Apple checks out bestseller lists across the country in order to determine whether the uploaded books violate the writer’s copyright.

Granted, policies with digital content stores are somewhat murky in regard to unintentional copyright infringement. Drawing parallels with the physical publishing, a publisher (in this case, Apple) should be held responsible for any copyright infringement, intentional or unintentional.

But given Apple’s woes with China’s state-run media, it’s likely this ruling is yet another case of the mounting pressure on Apple as the company continues to make strides in China.

Apple during the first quarter of 2013 saw its best-ever revenue in China.

“We just had our best quarter ever in Greater China,” CEO Tim Cook said during a conference call with analysts. “Revenue came in at $8.8 billion. That’s up 11 percent year-on-year. It’s the same as Apple’s growth.”

Following the recent hoopla over warranty practices in the 1.33 billion people market, Apple in a PR move announced an eight million dollar donation to China’s earthquake victims and launched a local support forum where customers can ask questions and get answers in their language.

Despite these moves, Apple isn’t off the hook in China yet.

Earlier in the month, Apple was mentioned in China’s porn app probe. Furthermore,  local authorities don’t seem to mind that a Chinese app store is featuring pirated iPhone apps.

And in a self-censoring move, Apple previously yanked an app out of the China App Store because it came with content critical of the government.