Posted by: ARNoack | November 3, 2012

Chinese Counterfeiting: Once a Virtue, Now a Vice

The Artist Rights Society (ARS) article “Copyright Basics” explains how copyright protection works in the United States and most of the Western world. However, in China copyright protection is virtually non-existent. In the third presidential debate, Mitt Romney touched on the subject of copyright infringement in China when he mentioned the sale of Chinese-manufactured counterfeit valves with fake serial numbers in the U.S. and the rest of the world. “While Romney’s outrage may make for good politics, history shows that Chinese counterfeiting is almost as old as America itself,” writes Eric Jay Dolan for Reuters. According to Dolan, author of “When America met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail,” Chinese painters in 18th-century Canton (now Guangzhou) could expertly copy any image. American merchants capitalized on this opportunity and, in the late 1700s, returned from China with excellent reproductions of American paintings. When French goods became popular in the 1830s, New York City’s Carnes brothers imported Chinese faux French fashion and food items, selling them at authentic prices.Image

Even today, Chinese companies continue to engage in “reverse-engineering,” as they call it. This is especially evident in the Chinese auto industry, where car manufacturers often build lower-quality, less-expensive knock-offs of American and European models. A recent special report from Reuters says China’s cars are improving with some carmakers resorting to simpler manufacturing techniques and digital crash-test simulations instead of counterfeiting to create inexpensive and safe cars.

How do views on copyright protection in other countries differ from our perspective in the U.S.? What can China do to curb copyright infringement without disrupting the burgeoning economy there?

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