Monday, January 10, 2005

Chinese IP Enforcement Goes Digital

China gives somewhat of a mixed picture when it comes to IP enforcement. This weekend the New York Times reported that "[...] China's failure to police industry and to protect intellectual-property acts, in effect, like one of the greatest industrial subsidies in the world." Great enough for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to make a visit to China in order to tell the Chinese they "got to start putting people in jail" for piracy and counterfeiting (thru Furdlog). As to stress the importance of locking up people for other acts than speaking their mind, a software pirate was sentenced to 18 months in jail in the U.S.

That China already seems to be getting more serious when it comes to the protection of 100 year old rabbits and the likes, was mentioned earlier. In order to have a larger legal threat than this kind of civil prosecution of (rabbit-)infringers China's top court has now lowered the threshold for criminal prosecution and vested prison terms of up to seven years. This must surely be to the delight of the U.S. Secretary, though he may look at an academic US-Chinese copyright cooperation for real tears of joy in his eyes.

The U.S. Mellon Foundation will assist the Dunhuang Academy with the digitalization and (online) exploitation of the Mogao Grottoes under a strict (digital) copyright regime. The grottoes form one of the most important sites of ancient Buddhist culture, and the Chinese are not willing to let this culture be pillaged by the internet:

"The national treasures of Dunhuang would have likely been exploited by the Internet without any compensation if intellectual property rights protection had not been introduced," said Liu.

The academy has adopted a litigation strategy to encourage a narrow interpretation of the fair use of Dunhuang images to bar intrusion of their exclusive rights.

The academy has signed four contracts since May 2000 with the Mellon Foundation to highlight its exclusive property and copy-rights over Dunhuang images.


Furthermore, new copyright protection technology has been implemented including pay-per-view technology, click-through barriers and digital watermarks which embed information about the rights owner into video, audio or graphics files.

"The legal and technical measures in place will help protect the intellectual property rights of Dunhuang, and could have significant influence on other aspects of cultural heritage protection," continued Liu.

Taling about though IP enforcement! This is something else than that whimsy free-culture-creative-commons-mantra that is supposed to save our cultural heritage. 1.3 billion people cannot be wrong.
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Dunhuang digitalization report here


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