How China combats product piracy (or not) | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 26.04.2012
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How China combats product piracy (or not)

Thursday was World Intellectual Property Day and China touted a very visible program supporting it. The authorities wanted to show how vehemently they were fighting product piracy.

German firms are among the many international businesses, industries and individuals which have had to cope with the brazen theft and illegal reproduction of copyrighted or trade-marked goods.

Facing worldwide criticism, China has been keen to demonstrate the tough measures it has undertaken against intellectual property theft and product piracy. Unfortunately, not all their propaganda has unfolded they way they wanted it to.

Officials destroying pirated goods after a raid on shop in Chongqing

Product piracy is rampant in China

When China shows how it pursues product thieves in the media there is usually music first, followed by a team of some 50 security personnel who then are seen destroying confiscated books, DVDs and other items. Their uniforms are fake, with "US Army" patches on the overalls, but that's only a minor detail. After all, the ultimate goal is much larger - for the nation and the world, say Beijing's deputy mayor, Cheng Hong.

"The fight against product piracy and the protection of intellectual property are important tasks in building a Socialist country and for promoting culture and prosperity," emphasizes Cheng during a speech at a school.

…To shred or not to shred…

In the schoolyard, six shredding machines have been set up in which confiscated contraband is torn up as the cameras roll. Among the captured booty are the movies "Kung Fu Panda" and Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Terminator" series.

Customers browse products at a shop masquerading as a bona fide Apple store

Chinese merchants have even faked retail outlets, like this illegal Apple store

Meanwhile, back on Beijing's shopping streets, the trade in pirated products continues. At one of the better known so-called fake markets, three merchants have stacks of films for sale. Each copy costs the equivalent of a little more than a euro. The police look on calmly and do not seem to be bothered by the activities. Where can you get licensed movies, I ask? The answer is a simple shrug. Nobody seems to know.

One of the black market merchants says he earns 35 euro cents for every pirated DVD he sells. But he is not about to tell me where he buys them. "They are produced everywhere. Sure, sometimes the authorities confiscate the goods, but mostly not," he says.

Back at the schoolyard at Beijing's Number 18 Middle School, red flags are being waved - to protect intellectual property. An hour later, the shredder machine is still standing - unused - in the rain. Someone says that because it is so wet, it is too dangerous to use them. Trucks loaded with pirated DVDs and books finally drive away. One onlooker whispers skeptically "I wonder where those will be sold?"

Allegedly, on World Intellectual Property Day, China destroyed 29 million pirated books and DVDs. The question is: where?

Author: Ruth Kirchner, Beijing / gb
Editor: Sarah Berning

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