The China Enterprise Evaluation Association (CEEA) recently organized an event in Beijing for the release of its "White Paper on Intellectual Property (film and audiovisual industry)". The aim of the research was to examine the state of intellectual property and copyright protection issues, while offering recommendations to China's film and audio-visual industry, based in part on international experience of property rights. Notably, the event was attended by trade associations such as the Music Copyright Society of China, China Audio & Video Association, and the Film Copyright Society of China.
The white paper found that, despite some recent efforts by the Chinese government to address relevant IP laws and regulations, piracy rates remained a consistent problem, with rates estimated as high as 50%. While western organizations such as the IIPA and MPAA have focused much of their concerns on online piracy, the white paper noted the important role that hotels, KTVs (karaoke), schools, libraries and other institutions played in driving the infringement of audiovisual copyrighted material. Such piracy not only depress movie box office sales and television viewership, they stunt the development of the legitimate audio-visual market and hamper innovation in the sector.
While some of the white paper's recommendations are predictable (such as strengthening law enforcement), others are worth noting, such as "strengthening the basic construction and formation of an effective intellectual property management system." We in the West take our copyright system for granted, not being mindful of the fact that it has been built up and revamped over the last 100 years and is not something that can be created overnight. It may not be perfect and is subject to criticism, but it is a known commodity, with well-established procedures and rules to follow if you want to, for example, use music in a video project. The painful fact is that the same cannot be said of China.
Parallel to this is the necessity to raise awareness on the importance of IP and specifically what action constitute infringement. I would contend that many businesses that are infringing on copyrights are not even aware that they are doing something illegal. Without education and awareness, there is little hope of influencing the behavior or either businesses or consumers.
And finally, there is a need to innovate new business models and seek out opportunities through new technology. This is a lesson which copyright holders in the West had, and in many cases continue to painfully learn. We do live in a brave new world where many old assumptions simply do not hold up. Digital technology has shifted the balance of power, and copyright holders need to adapt if they want to thrive and prosper.
By Eric de Fontenay