A renowned Taiwanese author has accused Chinese state-owned publishers of pirating a book he spent five years writing and not paying him any royalties.
Lu Tzu-yang (呂自揚) published the three-volume Analysis of Poetry and Quotations from the Past (歷代詩詞名句析賞探源) between 1979 and 1981 through his own publishing house, Hopan Book Publishing. A three-in-one version of the book came out in 1984.
Lu says the book has been a bestseller since publication.
The first pirated edition in Taiwan came out in 1982. Though Lu took the case to court, it took him nearly 15 years to be compensated.
China’s Mongolian People’s Publishing House re-edited the three books into a two-volume edition and published a pirated version in 1994. According to an article on Yahoo News, Greater Taichung-based Chen Hsing Publishing House claimed to have bought the copyright from the Chinese publisher and printed it in Taiwan.
Lu sued Chen Hsing and the High Court’s final ruling was delivered recently, Lu said, adding that the case had set a record for the largest reparation given for pirating a single book.
It also set a precedent as a book that was copied, pirated by a foreign publishing house, brought back to Taiwan by a local publishing house and “re-pirated,” Lu said.
Lu said the pirated version from Mongolian People’s Publishing House was not the only one, and that Chinese state-owned Beijing Writers Press had also come out with a pirated version a decade ago which had not altered a word from the original. The only difference was that the traditional Chinese characters were changed into simplified Chinese.
He said he recently learned that National Taiwan University (NTU), National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) all have the simplified Chinese versions of the book.
“The Beijing Writers Press contacted me through a publishing house in Taipei asking for my authorization to print the book in China and said they would give me 8 percent as royalty,” Lu said.
He added that he said he would authorize the publishing house to print in China, if they paid the royalties for all the copies that were pirated prior to contacting him.
“The Beijing Writers Press did not agree and I did not authorize them,” Lu said.
“The copyright page in copies of the book bought in China by my friends show that 140,000 copies were printed for soft and hardcover editions in December 1986. A total of 260,000 copies were made in July 1987 for the first print, with three subsequent reprints,” Lu said.
It is very possible that millions of pirated copies have been printed, Lu said.
“Everyone in the cultural publishing sector knows that the Chinese market is overflowing with pirated books by Taiwanese authors,” Lu said, adding that while some had suggested that he sue the press in a Chinese court, he had little hope this would succeed.
“I’ve been going to court for the past three decades over piracy cases in Taiwan and in all that time I’ve been looked down on by judges, spent a lot of money and have gotten little justice in return. How could I possibly complain about piracy in China?” Lu said.
Citing the examples of writers Luo Lan (羅蘭), writer of the bestseller Luo Lan Xiao Yu (羅蘭小語), and Bo Yang (柏楊), author of Alien Lands (異域), both of whom went to China to complained about piracy, Lu said Luo Lan only received the equivalent of several thousand NT dollars in compensation, while Bo Yang received US$20,000 the first year, a sum that dropped to only a few hundred US dollars in the second year.