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China's courts asked to settle dispute on last emperor's memoir
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The publisher of the autobiography of China's last emperor is seeking for the book's copyright to be declared an "intestate property" in order to resolve a longstanding ownership dispute.

The Beijing-based Qunzhong Publishing House filed a suit at the People's Court of Beijing's Xicheng District, applying for intestate status on the copyright of The First Half of My Life -- From Emperor to Citizen, a long-time bestseller by former child ruler Aisin Giorro Puyi.

The court published a proclamation in the People's Court Daily on Sep. 25, after verifying the application, saying, "The copyright will transfer to the state if no one claims ownership within a year, and profits from the book sales will be nationalized according to the law."

The publishing house would not comment on why it is seeking the declaration, but it comes after reports that Puyi's younger brother, Jin Youzhi, originally named Aisin Giorro Puren, was seeking to claim the copyright.

An editor of the publishing house surnamed Xu declined to comment on the issue, but told Xinhua that "the copyright ownership is in dispute".

The publishing house had a long dispute with the 89-year-old Jin, according to previous news reports.

In December last year, Jin lost a lawsuit claiming ownership of the copyright on Puyi's image after the Palace Museum held an exhibition on Puyi's life.

But the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled that Puyi was a public figure whose life was "closely connected with China's history", and reproductions of his image did not infringe on the family's rights.

Wang Qingxiang, a research fellow with northeast China's Jilin Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said Puyi was not the biological brother of Jin, who was adopted as the stepson of the Qing emperor in 1908.

The autobiography, a memoir of the first half of the 20th Century seen through Puyi's eyes, depicts his changes in fortune after the last dynasty of China collapsed in 1911.

Puyi started the book in 1957 and the government published it in 1964 after editing by many historians and experts. About 1.87 million copies in 21 editions have been sold over the past four decades.

Puyi died of illness in Beijing in 1967 and his wife Li Shuxian held the copyright until she died in 1997. But the couple, who left no legal will, had no offspring to take over the ownership.

In 1908, when Puyi was almost three years old, he ascended the imperial throne as the 10th ruler of the Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China's feudal system. Less than three years later, the 1911 Revolution forced his abdication.

After being expelled from Beijing's Imperial Palace in November 1924, Puyi and his family and entourage fled to Tianjin.

He was enthroned by Japanese invaders in China as a puppet emperor in the early 1930s, but was dethroned by revolutionaries after a three year reign, bringing to an end the 2,000-plus years of feudalism in China.

A file photo of Aisin Giorro Puyi, China's last emperor.

A file photo of Aisin Giorro Puyi, China's last emperor.

A file photo of Aisin Giorro Puren, the younger brother of China's last emperor

(Xinhua News Agency October 11, 2007)

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