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.