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Monday, December 13, 2010, 09:40 pm PT (12:40 am ET)

Japanese publishers censure Apple over App Store copyright violations

A consortium of Japanese publishers rebuked Apple on Tuesday for approving App Store apps that violate the copyrights of several famous Japanese authors.

The Japan Book Publishers Association, the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, The Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan, and Digital Comic Association issued a joint press release Tuesday condemning Apple’s distribution of infringing content as “illegal,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The consortium said works by well-known Japanese authors Haruki Marakami and Keigo Higashino had been illegally scanned and then distributed via the App Store.

“The associations we represent believe that Apple bears grave responsibility for this problem,” the statement read. According to the consortium, Apple's excuse that it is unable to check for copyrighted material during the App review process is "a wholly unconvincing explanation."

Apple's policy of removing pirated material when notified by a copyright holder mirrors Google's policy with YouTube videos. Viacom is suing Google for more than $1 billion over unauthorized copyrighted material posted to YouTube, the report noted. Google has defended itself by asserting that it obeys the law by removing offending material when notified, while Viacom argues that it should not have to monitor the site and send notices for infringing material.

The group of publishers is willing to give Apple a chance. In its press release, it asked to meet with Apple Japan to discuss how to address the problems. However, should Apple ignore the request, it will further provoke the ire of the publishers. “A failure to respond will be regarded as a lack of will on your part to take measures in a sincere manner,” the consortium warned.

As a foreign company facing off against local companies in the arena of digital distribution, Apple's efforts have been met with resistance. Tokyo-based conglomerate Sony inked several deals with newspapers and publishers for its e-reader content platform just prior to the iPad's launch there in May.

However, as the popularity of Apple's devices continues to grow in Japan, publishers have begun to take notice. The iPad got off to a "frenzied" start in Japan, with buyers camping out for days to purchase the device. The iPhone is dominating the Japanese smartphone market, while the iPod has seen continued success in the country.

Apple will increase the stakes for the Japan App Store early next year when it brings iAd to the country with the help of local partner The Dentsu Group.