The Times of London reported that J.K.Rowling won an easy copyright case against a Chinese publishing house that churned out several fake Harry Potter books (with the goofy names of Harry Potter and Leopard Walk up to Dragon, Harry Potter and the Golden Turtle, and Harry Potter and the Crystal Vase). The Chengdu-based publishing house didn't put up with any fight at all, I guess because they felt the fate was already sealed...
November 02, 2002
Legal magic spells win for Harry in China
Oliver August in Beijing and Jack Malvern report
J.K.Rowling has won a moral victory over copyright thieves
THE latest chapter in the saga of Harry Potter and the Chinese Pirates has finally been written. And this time the young wizard has fought off his adversaries not with magic but a band of lawyers.
J.K.Rowling has won an unexpected victory against a Beijing publishing house accused of republishing translated Harry Potter books and creating bogus Potter adventures in her name.
The Bashu Publishing House, in the southwestern city of Chengdu, has agreed to pay a £1,600 fine and publish an apology in China's Legal Times for printing and distributing a Harry Potter novel that Rowling did not write.
The victory was a welcome fillip for Rowling ahead of tomorrow's British premiere of the film of the second Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Neil Blair, who handles Rowling's copyright matters at the Christopher Little literary agency, said: "We are very satisfied with the result. Piracy is rife throughout the world. But, as this case shows, you can overcome it."
He added that China, along with India and Eastern Europe, was an international piracy hotspot. There were approximately another five investigations continuing in China on Rowling's behalf, and there was at least one other action taking place, in Russia, he said.There were also pirates operating in Britain, he said, but not to the same extent.
Joseph Simone, who acts for Baker & McKenzie, the Hong Kong lawyers who handled the case, said: "It's not much but it's something. They said they made a mistake. They said they were ignorant of the law. They settled fast."
Other publishing houses are believed to face similar legal action. Wang Rui, a copyright official at the People's Literature Publishing House, the state-owned firm that published the authorised translations, said fake Harry Potter books had appeared in at least ten cities around China.
They started to appear earlier this year with Harry Potter and Leopard Walk up to Dragon. On sale in street markets for about £1, it became an instant success, attracting other copyright pirates. Other fake books include Harry Potter and the Golden Turtle and Harry Potter and the Crystal Vase.
While Rowling's name appears on the covers, the books are hardly in the prose style her readers in the West have come to expect.
"Harry doesn't know how long it will take to wash the sticky cream cake off his face," one book begins. "For a civilised young man it is disgusting to have dirt on any part of his body. He lies in the high-quality bathtub, keeps wiping his face, and thinks about Dali's face, which is as fat as the bottom of Aunt Penny."
The Chengdu-based publishing house agreed to pay the fine after investigators acting for Rowling found the presses where the fake books had been printed.
The author's victory against the pirates will cheer international companies, many of which have faced similar problems for years. Even the mighty Microsoft, usually the bully rather than the bullied, has battled against copyright infringements in China, the world's most heavily pirated software market.
"We've done very well here, we're growing very fast but certainly one of the things that is holding our growth back and the rest of the industry is the intellectual property situation," Michael Rawding, president of Microsoft Asia said.
Putting a brave face on the launch of Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system in China, Mr Rawding described the country as being in the "initial stages" of appreciating intellectual property.
China has taken steps to root out piracy in recent months, spurred on by a desire to protect its own industry and its entry to the World Trade Organisation. Software firms still suffer billion-dollar losses annually because of unlicensed use in China, where the piracy rate was 94 per cent in 2000, according to the Business Software Alliance.
Last year, software firms lost £700 million to piracy in China, according to the group, formed by software and ecommerce companies in 65 countries. There are no comparable figures for the publishing sector.