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Online literature companies say they will fight piracy


06-02-2014 20:59 BJT

The digital age has changed the way millions of people read. A huge number of online publishing sites now cater to Chinese readers. But piracy is rampant, and there’s no sign of relief. Insiders say it’s the biggest hindrance to the industry.

Xiao Feng, who writes under pen name Mao Ni, is one of the most celebrated online authors in China.

His copyrighted pieces have had over 190 million clicks, and he has over 1 million fans.

But online piracy has been a headache since he published his first story in 2004.

"We post a pay-to read chapter, and then do an online search for it. Almost immediately there’s page after page... all of them are pirated copies," online writer Xiao Feng said.

On the search result list, almost all websites on top of the list have copied his writings. Xiao Feng says this has made a huge dent in the number of visits to official sites.

Insiders say the illicit business model is simple...more visitors mean more money from ads.

Wu Wenhui is the CEO of one online literature company.

"About 3 to 5 percent of online readers pay for what they read. That’s quite high for this industry. But 95 percent still read pirated e-books. If piracy was stopped, the writers’ income could be ten times higher," Wu said.

But stopping piracy is not easy and the time and cost of a lawsuit discourages many writers.

"According to official interpretations of the law, you can get compensations of 2 to 5 times of the price of the copyrighted text. But in reality, for online writings, it’s just 100 yuan per 1000 Chinese characters. So you may end up getting just a few tens of thousands yuan. It’s not much," said Sun Jie, director of Copyright Protection Center of China.

Several major literature websites are now trying to attract the popular writers by promising better protection.

"We will protect the IP addresses of good writers. We will apply for legal protection and trade mark protection. And we will ensure that our website provides the best user experience."

It’s a lucrative market. But with piracy so rife, it clearly needs better regulation.

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