Is China Starting to Actually Figure Out What Copyrights Are?

More than just Peter Rabbit fans will be delighted at the latest news out of China: Publishers Weekly reports that:

“A Beijing court has cracked down on a Chinese publisher for selling
unauthorized copies of the original Peter Rabbit series, in a decision
that is being seen as a sign that the government there may be changing
its attitude toward protecting intellectual property.”

Here’s the full article, because I think it’s important – and very good – news for everyone in the intellectual property business (including us writers):

The ruling by the Beijing Xicheng District Administration of Industry
and Commerce affirms that Social Science Press of Beijing violated the
trademarks of Peter Rabbit publisher Frederick Warne & Co. by
publishing the books. Frederick Warne, a subsidiary of Penguin Books,
owns global rights to the Peter Rabbit books and has been licensing
the World of Beatrix Potter merchandise in China for the past four
years. The administration is scheduled to release details, including
any penalties that will be imposed on Social Science Press, later this

Frederick Warne declined to comment beyond issuing written remarks,
including this statement from managing director Sally Floyer: “We
appreciate the Chinese government’s commitment to the protection of
international intellectual property rights.”

But Association of American Publishers CEO Pat Schroeder says the
Chinese government is long overdue in taking action against
intellectual property piracy, which has been allowed to go on largely
unchecked. Schroeder and other representatives of the AAP have made
trips to China to lobby the government to fulfill its obligation as a
member of the World Trade Organization to protect trademarks.

“We tend to deal with the national government. They quickly explain to
you that it’s the regional and the local government that is going to
enforce this, which suddenly makes it a terrible nightmare,” Schroeder

Schroeder says China’s non-enforcement of intellectual property laws
has deterred large international publishers from expanding into China
and kept the country’s own scholars and authors isolated from the rest
of the world. She sees the decision to enforce the trademark
protection on Peter Rabbit as an encouraging sign.

“To me the message of this is Beijing seems to understand now that
they’re impairing their own development,” she says. “Too often
‘copyright enforcement’ sounds like you’re ensuring that foreigners
continue getting rich.”

Of course, whatever they say, I’ll note that when you see listings of free books online, or free books on CDROM on eBay, they more often than not are from Eastern European countries, not China. Nonetheless, respecting copyright and other intellectual property laws is essential for a smoothly flowing international trade and global economy.

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