Japanese Publishers Cry Foul on Pirated App Store Books

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Arrrrggghhhhh!!!!!

Four publishers in Japan have accused Apple of selling pirated books in the company’s App Store for iOS apps. The Financial Times reported that the publishers have found instances of works covered by Japanese copyright for sell in pirated versions, usually in Chinese-language apps from developers based out of China.

 

For instance, when FT published its story, the complete works of Haruki Murakami (which includes works such as Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and other books) in Chinese for US$1.99. That app is no longer available.

The publishers said that Apple has pulled some instances of pirated works out of the App Store, but the group is complaining that Apple doesn’t have a formal mechanism to handle such issues so that pirated works can be dealt with more swiftly.

“Apple is yet to clearly specify a contact point for removal requests or the procedures for removal, and even for the content that has been removed, it is unclear who removed the content and how the determination for removal was made,” the group said in a formal letter of complaint. “In addition, despite directly profiting from this illegal distribution, Apple has also failed to disclose sales data for these digital bootlegs.”

The letter added, “Apple’s distribution of content that clearly infringes copyright constitutes the aiding and abetting of illegal acts, and this in itself must be deemed illegal.”

Apple offered FT a brief comment on the issue, saying in a statement, “As an IP holder ourselves, we understand the importance of protecting intellectual property and when we receive complaints we respond promptly and appropriately.”

The four publishers involved in the complaint are the JBPA, the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, the Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan and the Digital Comic Association.

There are thousands of Chinese language apps available in the U.S. App Store, and many more in other App Stores throughout the world. Many of those are books in the form of an app, and Apple clearly hasn’t yet found a way to check IP rights on all the non-English apps that are submitted to the service,

The Japanese publishers have every right to be tense about their works being offered for sale illegally on the App Store, but it remains to be seen if Apple reverses years of secrecy and closed-door management of services and products such as the App Store by moving to more transparent business processes and policies like those in their letter.

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Comments

mhikl

Not good, Apple. I assumed, wrongly, that the chunk of change Apple took as its share of sales would include checking out copyrights. Sort of a no-brainer.

I think Apple’s cut would be fair were reasonable steps being taken to protect original authors and their creative works from plagiaristic or piratical venture. I doubt Steve’s calligraphic skills include reading Chinese characters, (or any language other then American) so, are there well versed literati of the world’s major languages part of the army that scrutinizes, regulates and approves apps?

I know he’s not getting my book of limericks until assurances are made. “Said the illustrious lover Don Juan, to the girl he was . . . .” Oops, iffy regarding censorship.

sosumi

Not Apple’s problem.  Apple cannot possibly check all the content of every app, to make sure there are no possible infringements.

For all purposes the App Store is a clearinghouse.  Apple will simply hand the matter off to the app developers, who will deal with the issues themselves.

Lee Dronick

“the group is complaining that Apple doesn?t have a formal mechanism to handle such issues so that pirated works can be dealt with more swiftly.”

How swiftly is it and how swiftly do the publishers want it to be? I am thinking that Apple would have to first verify that the book has actually been pirated before pulling it.

dhp

Not Apple?s problem.

Try again. Apple keeps 30 percent of the sale price. Profiting from illegal sale of copyrighted material is not good.

Steve Kay

How in the H could I or so many other people even think of buying Apple products.  Apple, a company with a 100% rating from the Human rights campaign actually put out an App that disparaged marriage equality for gay people.

Something is wrong in silicon valley, where almost every business (I worked for Intel for 20 years) does the right thing and supports full equality for their gay employees.

Shame on you Apple.  You are letting the wonderful reputation that gives you the ability to commnand high prices vs commodity pricing to be destroyed.  Most likely by a couple of people who you should send to the unemployment line.

And make sure that their reputation follows them if they use Apple for references.

Dean Lewis

I’d bet somewhere in the application the developer signs there is a statement that the developer assures that all of the material in the app is their own and does not break copyrights or patents. (Does anyone have the agreement to see if this is so?) Then Apple simply has to do a reasonable job in removing the app when informed—and as can be seen, “reasonable” is different depending on whether you’re the publisher or Apple. It’ll take a court to decide a reasonable time limit on double-checking and removal.

In the meantime, it is the developer of the apps who are primarily liable. However, it’s harder to go after them, and therefore isn’t a surprise the publishers are going after Apple. Luckily Apple wants to work with them, and it’d be in their best interests not to make Apple mad with threats and posturing.

Concerning the gay thing: there are plenty of gay-friendly apps, and Apple was raked over the coals for giving money to fight Prop 8 in California a while back. They’re damned when they censor stuff and damned when they don’t, apparently.

Andrew

You guys should research the history of copyright law.

We live in an age where sharing is caring, where sharing a book you love in physical form is done by the government in libraries and done by people on a daily basis, but sharing a book you love in digital form is considered on par with attacking a warship.

Change these stupid laws. Stop making it illegal to be humane.

kevinolive

I believe that either eBooks should be able to be loaned out or the price should be lower due to the reduced ability for sharing.
I don’t think it would be that difficult to set up a process for sharing digital books; however, for that to work in a similar fashion as the physical copies, the owner’s digital copy would have to be inaccessible while it is out on loan so that only one copy is available for any given purchase.  I don’t think this would be hard to do for iBooks, kindle, and other readers that connect to an electronic bookstore. 

For instance, you go to the eBookstore and loan your book to another account for a fixed period of days.  The receiver gets a notification that a book is on loan to them, your book is no longer available to you until the loan out period is over.

Seems simple on ePaper.  But it doesn’t really promote sales.  How many times should an eBook be able to be loaned out?  What would stop the owner of the eBook from loaning it out to hundreds or thousands of people and killing sales of the book?  So, perhaps allow a fixed number of loans or charge a nominal fee (a dollar) to loan the book out.  That way there is still some revenue.

dhp

We live in an age where sharing is caring, where sharing a book you love in physical form is done by the government in libraries and done by people on a daily basis, but sharing a book you love in digital form is considered on par with attacking a warship.

That may be a valid point, but it does not apply to this case. The book/app in question was not being “shared”; it was being copied and sold for a profit. Big difference. You don’t see libraries making copies of books and other media and selling them (or even loaning them).

gnasher729

How in the H could I or so many other people even think of buying Apple products.? Apple, a company with a 100% rating from the Human rights campaign actually put out an App that disparaged marriage equality for gay people.

Which application? Is it still on the the app store? Did the app do anything illegal or do you just want Apple to censor apps with contents that you don’t agree with? Please give some details, or it hasn’t happened.

gnasher729

How swiftly is it and how swiftly do the publishers want it to be? I am thinking that Apple would have to first verify that the book has actually been pirated before pulling it.

I thought legally this would be the standard DMCA procedure: Anyone can notify Apple. Apple checks whether the notification meets all formal requirements (like a contact address, claim that the person sending the notification is the copyright holder or an agent of the copyright holder etc. ). Apple withdraws the app. The developer can respond by saying that the app doesn’t infringe any copyright; in which case Apple puts the app back within fourteen days. The result would likely be lawsuit between the two parties without Apple’s involvement. If some joker sends fake DMCA notifications then the developer can sue them, for lost profits and because sending fake DMCA notifications is actually a crime.

On top of that Apple should use some judgement to find out the truth and disallow apps that infringe on someone’s copyright.

Lee Dronick

That is what I was thinking gnasher.

Nom

Apple keeps 30 percent of the sale price. Profiting from illegal sale of copyrighted material is not good.

It’s called a distribution fee.  Same way that a bookstore or even the postal service charges a fee.  Bookstore is probably a closer analogy, because - like Apple - if someone legitimately complains that a product they are selling is illegal, they’ll remove the product.

However, my understanding is that nothing in the law requires a retailer to perform background checks on the copyright status of every product submitted for sale.

Technically, Apple is acting as slightly more than a retailer (they do perform some basic checks), but even so, there’s only so much copyright checking one can reasonably expect them to do.

Apple, a company with a 100% rating from the Human rights campaign actually put out an App that disparaged marriage equality for gay people.

(1) They didn’t “put it out”; the iTunes Store is a store, not a publishing house.  If we were talking iWork (where Apple is the author as well), you’d have a point, but we’re not.

(2) Most people only heard of the app when it was pulled.  It’s not like it was “app of the week” or anything.

(3) In any case, the app in question was political, not “offensive”.  One group made a political statement (mostly to supporters) that another group disliked, so the latter group lobbied Apple to pull the app.  Whether this is appropriate or not is a complex legal and social issue.

gnasher729

How in the H could I or so many other people even think of buying Apple products.? Apple, a company with a 100% rating from the Human rights campaign actually put out an App that disparaged marriage equality for gay people.

Funny enough, a new thread has just started “NOM calls Apple CEO ‘Big Brother’” exactly because Apple has _removed_ the application that you are complaining about.

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