A raid by prosecutors on shops that copy books in Taichung last Tuesday has sparked a legal debate on the issue of intellectual property.
One Singapore and five US-based publishers complained to the Taichung District Prosecutors' Office (
Nearly 50 prosecutors began their search Tuesday afternoon after obtaining warrants. They discovered pirated copies of hundreds of original publications, as well as invoices for illegal copying services at 10 shops near universities and colleges in the area. The same stores are also suspected of pirating books printed by local publishers.
Prosecutors at the scene arrested the owners of the shops. After being interviewed, the owners were released on bail set between NT$50,000 and NT$100,000.
Local universities acknowledge that piracy is illegal, but school officials and professors said they also hope students can complete their education at a lower cost.
Kwan Shang-jan (
In an effort to help students' pare expenses, Kwan said that the university encourages professors to make transparencies from required textbook chapters.
"Usually, textbooks from a foreign publisher cost a couple thousand dollars," Kwan said. "In Taiwan, due to some legal problems, campus stores cannot work with foreign publishers under a contract relationship and provide a cheaper price or discounts for students.
"This means that students have to spend extra money for their textbooks off campus. That's one of the reasons why most students decided to photocopy these books instead of buy them."
In addition to providing transparencies of assigned chapters, Kwan said that the university library tries to collect as many books as possible. Students are encouraged to check out these books or photocopy parts of them, if necessary.
Two college students, surnamed Roan (阮) from Shih Hsin University (世新大學) and Deng (鄧) from Chinese Culture University (文化大學), said that they would not shell out the cash for expensive foreign textbooks.
"Why? Because the professors wouldn't even go through the entire book most of the time," Roan said.
"When I was a freshman, I would follow professors' instructions to buy the assigned textbooks. Of course, I spent a lot, too," he said.
"But gradually, I realized that professors may just discuss and go through some of the books' chapters. Then, what's the point of me spending that much? I just need the chapters he'll teach."
Roan said that most students understand that it is illegal to photocopy the entire book and will just photocopy the pages they need.
"At least as far as I'm concerned, I don't know anyone who would copy the whole thing," he added.
"Sometimes if the book is thick, copying it won't be any cheaper than buying it."
Deng said that it should be common sense for all college students that piracy is shameful and illegal. However, he strongly suspected that some professors are also pirating students' work.
Deng said that some teachers have collected students' papers, rearranged or rewritten them and turned them into another book. These teachers would then ask students to purchase these books whose contents were pirated from previous students' papers.