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Chinese writers' lawsuit against Apple over pirated ebooks gains momentum

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Three more Chinese writers have filed suit against Apple, which they say has not done enough to prevent app developers from selling pirated content. Ten more writers are expected to join the suits, which currently encompass 59 books and are seeking $3.5 million US in damages.


A small but growing number of Chinese writers are filing suit against Apple, claiming the company is turning a blind eye to ebook piracy. Starting in January, three separate lawsuits involving 59 books have been filed with a Beijing court, and the number of writers involved has grown from nine to twelve, including blogger, bestselling writer, and race car driver Han Han. Ten more authors are expected to join. The three lawsuits are seeking a total of 23 million yuan ($3.5 million US) in damages, although a Xinhua report put that number at 50 million yuan ($7.7 million US), a number that has not been confirmed by the group's lawyer.

The authors allege that Apple has not done enough to prevent apps in its store from offering pirated content, and that even books or apps that Apple removes soon reappear. "It is encouragement in disguise, because they did not punish the developers. The developers could have been kicked out. But nothing happened to them," lawyer Wang Guohua told the Associated Press. Since Apple also takes a 30 percent cut of in-app sales, one representative claims that the company is profiting directly off pirated content.

An Apple spokeswoman did not comment on the case, but said that the company responded to copyright infringement complaints "promptly and appropriately." Apple has basic guidelines for removing infringing content, but it doesn't individually approve in-app purchases. Chinese authors' groups, however, say this isn't enough, particularly because of China's generally lax IP enforcement. "In China, copyright policies should be more strict," a spokesman for a Chinese writers' guild said last year, when the first writers began raising funds for a suit.