Racy Vietnamese author prepared to sue Apple

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Maligned by local critics as trashy, Le Kieu Nhu's novel is nevertheless protected from copyright infringement by the Berne Convention, which Apple may have violated by selling it without her consent on its App Store

A screen-shot of Soi xich from Apple's App Store website. File photo

Actress-singer Le Kieu Nhu, author of a book lambasted for its crude sex and poor writing, has demanded that Apple Inc. compensate her for selling the book without her consent.

"My lawyer in Vietnam has sent a request to Apple and if the company doesn't respond, I will hire a lawyer in the US to work directly with the company," she told Vietweek.

"I don't mind pursuing the case to the end," Nhu said referring to the copyright battle over her book, Soi xich (The Chain).


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The book was published in March 2010 by Hoi Nha Van (Writers' Association), which withdrew its 2,000 copies a few days later. Further publication of the novel has been suspended since.

The book centers on a rural orphan girl who marries an "ideal" man who turns out to be impotent. Unable to make love, he chains up his wife in their home. Later, the protagonist commits adultery with a younger man.

Nhu's lawyer, Nguyen Thanh Cong of the East Law Firm in Ho Chi Minh City, told Vietweek on Wednesday that he had sent an official request regarding the case to Apple Inc. in California on July 8.

"Apple has clearly violated the Berne Convention and other relevant laws," he said, adding that he sent the request by both email and express mail but the company has yet to reply.

In the letter, Cong said Nhu recently discovered that her book has been sold without her permission on Apple's App Store for US$29 since 2010.

Cong said that Apple normally allots 30 percent of the revenue from book sales for royalties owed to the author.

Accordingly, he demanded that Apple immediately remove the book from its App Store and pay Nhu compensation to the tune of $100,000, plus royalties equal to 30 percent of revenues earned from book sales.

He said he would take "any appropriate action," including suing the company in either in Vietnam or the US.

Vietweek contacted Apple Inc. for comments but had not heard back as of press time.

Jezebel vs. Goliath

More than three years after the publication and withdrawal of the novel, Nhu's dispute with Apple has once again placed her center stage.

Nhu said after her novel's withdrawal, she found that it was being sold on Apple platform but she was too tired from the scandal and believed the company had stopped selling it.

It was only recently that she discovered Apple had been selling her novel since September 2010.

Actress-singer Le Kieu Nhu, known for her novel Soi xich (The Chain), which was withdrawn soon after its publication due to criticism that it was pornographic, has demanded that Apple remove the book from its App Store. Photo: Coban Nguyen

She said she did not complain because it would be difficult to fight the giant US firm.

"But they have gone too far when they claim that I supplied my novel for them to sell. I can't remain silent in the face of that," she told Vietweek.

"An accomplishment made by my sweat and effort has been openly stolen."

She rejects condemnations that pursuing the case against Apple amounts to a tawdry effort to enhance her "sexy" image.

"I am frustrated because of relevant damages. I also want to call on similar victims to raise their voice against copyright infringement," she said.

Nhu's dispute with Apple is the first of its kind in Vietnam.

In April, a Beijing court ordered Apple to pay three Chinese authors $118,000 in damages for selling their books without prior consent through its App Store.According to the China Daily, Judge Feng Gang, who presided over the case, said Apple "has the duty of checking whether books uploaded by third parties adhere to current laws."

The ruling follows a long line of complaints and lawsuits against Apple by Chinese authors who claim their works have been uploaded through third party apps to Apple's App Store without their permission.

However, Xie Wen, former president of Yahoo China, was quoted in the China Daily as saying that other technology companies will not alter the management of their downloading platforms, and such infringements will continue.

Uploaded information is abundant and interpreting copyright law can be difficult for companies of any size, he said.

Meanwhile, the paper quoted Yu Guofu, a lawyer specializing in copyright law, as saying that the amount of compensation Apple would likely pay will not be enough to deter it or other companies from their copyright infringing practices.

"Apple, a famous company, was required to compensate three people only about 700,000 yuan such a verdict will not cause other companies much worry," he said.

Cong, the Vietnamese lawyer, said his law firm is contacting other authors whose books are being sold by Apple to find out if their cases are similar Nhu's and if so, how they are dealing with taking on the giant company.

"If there is no response from Apple, we will send another letter from Nhu along with other authors and ask relevant central governmental agencies to coordinate with their US counterparts through diplomatic channels to handle the cases based on the Berne Convention, to which both Vietnam and the US are signatories."

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