The Shanghai Haishang Books Distribution Company was recently ordered by a local court to pay damages of 50,000 yuan (US$6,250) for selling a pirated book for 13 yuan (US$1.6).
According th a ruling by the No. 2 Intermediate People's Court of Shanghai City, the damages will go to the Shanghai People's Publishing House, which holds the copyright for the book.
This was the first case involving pirated books the Shanghai court had dealt with, said Fu Minrong, the claimant's attorney from the Shanghai Xinwenhui Law Office. The No. 2 Intermediate People's Court for the first time consulted the Law on Copyright of the People's Republic of China amended last October 27 and set a precedent for evidence and deciding the amount of damages.
According to the new law, the responsibility to provide evidence shifts from the claimant to the defendant. The defendant is legally responsible if it cannot prove the source of the books was legal.
The Shanghai Haishang Books Distribution Company said in its defense that the pirated book was the wrong book returned by a customer who happened to buy two copies of the same book. The court decided that the evidence given by the defendant was not convincing enough and the company was legally responsible.
The Chinese government used to take administrative measures to punish piracy but fines were usually small and not very effective.
According to the new copyright law, a small number of sales could result in a large sum in damages. If a bookseller does not reveal the source of the pirated books, they must pay the damages.
"Fighting piracy was very hard in the past. We had to go to the printing house to find out the source of the pirated books. Now according to the new copyright law we need only accuse the seller," said Sun Jianyue from the Shanghai People's Publishing House.
(Xinhua News Agency October 10, 2002)