Muschamp Rd

Chinese Copyright

April 13th, 2006

While I was living in China I saw a lot of people selling DVDs in the streets. They were not just targeting foreigners either. I also saw a lot of knockoff branded goods, clothing and bags. I also apparently bought a knockoff SanDisk memory card.

So to say spotting copyright violations in China is difficult for authorities is laughable. It is not like there aren’t Chinese copyright laws. While on exchange at Tsinghua I made it a point to take the business law class. In addition to copyright there are also patents and Western companies have won some legal cases.

But none of that is why I’m writing this post. I’m writing this post because before I left, while out seeing a temple fair the people I was with commented how odd it was I had not bought a single DVD. Many of my fellow exchange students at Tsinghua bought numerous DVDs. Apparently some of my Taiwanese Sauder classmates bought 200 each while visiting Anni Cao in Shanghai.

Update: When I lived in China the second time I bought a lot of DVDs though now people find the movies illegally online, some of the movies I was able to bring home, some I was not.

I decided to hunt down my favourite Chinese movie Hard Boiled. None of my Chinese house guests had seen it and despite Ally being a little upset at watching it in Mandarin instead of Cantonese they were all enjoying it until it wouldn’t play. We eventually ended up after much fiddling skipping three entire chapters. I had previously watched it on my laptop with less trouble. We didn’t miss any major gun fights, well the one on the sailboat… I had to explain what happened, as I had seen it many times.

I made a point of buying my DVDs at a real store. They looked real enough, but there are some oddities. Several years back on eBay I bought a pirated version of the Criterion Collection edition of Hard Boiled which was not advertised as such. After sending it back on the advise of the Bank of Montreal they then ruled against me being defrauded online so I was out both my money and had nothing to show for it. The same seller sold numerous pirated copies as authentic. eBay did nothing, needless to say I canceled my Bank of Montreal Mastercard and am not a fan of eBay either.

The point is, the Chinese need to realize they are only ripping off themselves. It is true that tourists buy knockoff Gucci bags, but both times I was at the Silk Market I saw way more Chinese than lao wei. The same was true in Shanghai. It is true that by ignoring patent law, the Chinese have benefited in some cases, notably the cellular phone industry, though Chinese consumers seem to prefer foreign brands to Chinese companies that flagrantly do not license the technology they use.

I’m starting to get sidetracked. Selling goods as authentic then having them not be, hurts consumers. No matter how many foreigners get ripped off, more Chinese will get ripped off. The Chinese, particularly the young with higher disposable incomes are starting to realize this, though there is still a certain amount of ignorant nationalistic rhetoric tied up in the whole issue, particularly online in the blogosphere.

I don’t mind paying more for authentic goods, I was shopping in an area of town not frequented by tourists. I was buying a Chinese movie, directed by Chinese, staring Chinese, from a Chinese studio, in China with Chinese currency. There was no foreigner loosing out in this transaction. I just wanted to acquire an old Chinese movie that is mysteriously out of print in Region 1 or at least it was for a good while.

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