The nation's first copyright lawsuit against government bodies has been filed in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province.
Beijing-based Sanmianxiang Copyright Agency has accused two government organizations of infringing their copyrights.
Liao Xingcheng, a prolific writer on rural development in Hebei Province, signed a copyright transfer contract with the company two years ago for several of his published articles.
But Sanmianxiang discovered in December 2004 that Jiangsu Provincial State Taxation Bureau and the Agriculture and Forestry Bureau published two of Liao's articles on their official websites without paying the agency or identifying Liao as the author.
After initial negotiations failed Sanmianxiang named the two bodies in a lawsuit before Nanjing Intermediate People's Court on Monday demanding they stop publishing the articles and deliver a public apology on their websites.
The agency also wants 6,000 yuan (US$750) compensation from each bureau which includes their notary fees and lawyer's payments.
According to Zhou Jiejing, a lawyer representing Sanmianxiang, the company originally contacted 106 government bodies from both Jiangsu and Anhui provinces last year accusing them of copyright infringements.
Fifteen offices in Jiangsu have since agreed to pay the copyright fees and apologize publicly. But dozens of others insist they've done nothing wrong.
"We are using the articles for public welfare," said a worker surnamed Wang, from Jiangsu Provincial State Taxation Bureau. "We're not commercial websites." Wang's view is shared by many of his colleagues.
"Government websites usually have little money to operate with," said a member of staff who asked not to be identified. "If they have to pay copyright fees for every article they'd have no money left."
But Zhan Qizhi, manager with Sanmianxiang, said that was no excuse for them to neglect copyright regulations. "Being part of the government they should set a good example to other commercial websites and obey the rules and regulations."
According to Zhan, they targeted government websites in their campaign on copyright infringements as their operators were not too difficult to track down unlike those who ran wholly commercial websites.
According to a staff from Nanjing Intermediate People's Court the case will be dealt with next month.
(China Daily March 29, 2006)