Popular novelist Guo Jingming and his publisher were ordered this past weekend to pay 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) to another writer for copyright infringement in connection with Guo's bestselling Never Flowers in Never Dreams, published in 2003.
The Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court also ordered 21-year-old Guo and the Chunfeng Literature and Art Publishing House to cease publishing the book, a tale of tangled romance between several young people.
The court order also requires that both Guo and the company to publish an apology in the China Youth Daily.
Another defendant, Beijing Books Building, was ordered to stop selling the book.
Plaintiff Zhuang Yu, 25, who filed the complaint last December, said she completed her novel in 2002 and the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles Press published it in February 2003.
"But later I found that Guo's book, published in November last year by the Chunfeng Press, plagiarized my idea, story, main plots, major characters and language," the plaintiff said.
Zhuang alleged that Guo copied more than 100 parts of her book and requested payment of 500,000 yuan (US$60,000) in damages.
The court found that 12 major plot elements and 57 paragraphs in Guo's book were identical or similar to Zhuang's and that Zhuang's book had been published earlier.
However, the court found that the Copyright Law does not protect concepts such as plot, theme or characteristics of people appearing in the story, nor can language become the property of a specific person.
Guo, a university student in Shanghai, denied the allegations.
His book has sold more than 1 million copies, sources said.
Guo Jingming ranks the 93rd on Forbes' list of Chinese celebrities in 2004. He is arguably the most famous young commercial writer in China.
(China Daily December 8, 2004)