CHINA – Development of the leader in image theft

There is a persistent opinion that China is the country of copying, and often without permission. Over and over again we hear that big companies like Disney are victims of copycats. According to an evaluation of 10,000 COPYTRACK records, China is currently number 1 in image theft. Even though the majority of the copies are of poor quality and in most cases contribute to our amusement, the subjects themselves should be taken more seriously.

In China, copying is a trend. Since the majority of the country lives in poverty, by copying, forging and stealing images one actually creates more jobs in China. Mofang – “to imitate the work of a master” – was understood for a long time as a form of recognition and flattery. Even imitated goods and knockoffs, already have their own term in Chinese, ‘shanzhai’, referring to a Chinese city were most imitated goods come from.

Tom Doctoroff, the author of the book „What Chinese Want“, told Forbes magazine: “Product piracy in China is due to the view that individual rights are insignificant.” A report from the 2015 European Commission Tax and Customs Union named China as the “primary country for products imported into the EU, possibly infringing industrial property rights of third parties”. According to the report, 41% of all cases of copyright infringement originate in China. These figures clearly show that a lot still needs to be done to tackle the current infringement issues.

However, rest assured, copyright protection and other industrial property rights also exist in China. The People’s Republic of China has joined both the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These two internationally recognized and internationally important treaties determine a certain amount of basic protection for the industrial property rights in the respective member states.

According to the Berne Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the works of foreign authors in the Member States, such as those of domestic authors, must be protected. In addition, no special conditions, such as registration, may be attached to the origin of copyright protection, since the contract nominates certain minimum standards as to the extent to which the use of works originates originally from the author. However, evem at a national level, China has improved protection.

More recently, implementation rules have been adopted in China to guide the courts in the application of international treaties for copyright protection and to prevent disputes or inconsistencies. As early as 1991, a national copyright law was passed, which was last revised in 2010. Although implementation and enforcement have been factually proven to be hard, it is no mistake that China has been giving immense efforts to achieve it in the long-run.