IP and Law

China Daily website follies

On May 31 this year, the China Daily copied an article from the Shenzen Daily and published it on their website. The article was titled Tough fines for piracy, and included the following:
China said yesterday that it would impose fines of as much as 100,000 yuan (US$12,500) on distributors of illegally copied music, movies and other material over the Internet, a move likely to put pressure on search engines like Baidu.com.

Internet service providers must give the authorities contact information for owners of sites that distribute pirated material, the State Council said in a statement dated May 18 and posted on its Web site yesterday.

On May 31, Sam Flemming posted an article to his Word of Mouth blog about China's Internet stars, titled China 'net stars commercial trend continues.

On June 2, the China Daily's website published an article, credited to Sam Flemming, called Chinese BBStars appeal to commercial trend. The article was a nearly verbatim, unauthororized reproduction of the original blog post, but of course there were no links, and the references to the blog were deleted.


The China Daily newspaper and website are state-owned. Searching for China information on Google often gives China Daily articles in the top ten results, meaning that people abroad with no knowledge of China will often end up on Chinadaily.com.cn. Shouldn't the Ministry of Publicity (née Propaganda) be concerned?

Why does this type of flagrant piracy happen so frequently at the website of China's flagship English language newspaper?

A person who identifies him- or herself as a China Daily insider gave a clue in this comment on a previous Danwei post:

The web-editors are arrogant bastards who know nothing about journalistic standards.
The CD website is an absolute joke, no editorial control and no communication with the print edition. Working at the print edition, I'm totally embarrassed by the idiots who work there ... the paper has its problems, no secrets there, but the website ... does nothing but drag the name of the paper down even further. Mistakes occur in every paper, but if you trawl through a list of China Daily errors of the past couple of years, the majority and the most serious (eg plagiarism) are all on the website, totally beyond the control of the print edition.

There are people at this organization who are progressive and are making changes, but the problem is that nobody will notice the vast improvements in the paper in the past couple of years because the idiots at the website continue to act with utter abandon.

There is of course another way to view this:

One of the best things about the Chinese Internet is its freewheeling, anarchic condition. There is a word in Chinese zhuanzai (转载) which means reprint, and is also used on the Internet to mean copying and republishing, invariably without permission. Because of the zhuanzai habit, all kinds of text and media can quickly get distributed on the Internet on hundreds of websites. This happens with news items, blog posts, photos, essays and articles. The content thus republished runs the gamut from pictures of MM (girlie pics) to political debate.

From the point of view of a Chinese Internet user, the zhuanzai habit is mostly good: it makes information much more easily available than if Chinese websites were picky about the source of their content.

But zhuanzai makes it difficult to find authoritative sources, muddies the waters of Internet media business, and results in flagrant violations of intellectual property rights.

As for the China Daily, it is a newspaper and website that is supposed to represent the government and people of China to the international community. The scant attention Chinadaily.com.cn pays to copyright and other conventions does not do the name of the newspaper nor China any good.

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There are currently 15 Comments for China Daily website follies.

Comments on China Daily website follies

RE: The scant attention Chinadaily.com.cn pays to copyright and other conventions does not do the name of the newspaper nor China any good.

I’ll say! No good at all. I read with dismay the 25th Anniversary edition. Two current foreign staff, obviously (or for the sake of their reputations, I hope...) under duress, were forced to gush lyrical about the esteemed organ's quarter century of publishing the "how not to do it" newspaper of all time . One said he came from a regional paper in the UK -- which has some of the liveliest press in the world-- and was amazed by the tension! - the excitement! - the pressure! - the shouting and general bustle of the newsroom as all hands rushed to get another packed daily off the stone and onto the gate and get the press rolling...Gasp! Pant!

Er...I worked there for a year and the only cheer I have heard was at lunch from the ping-pong players and skippers in the foyer.

This English chappie, like most there, must have been working on a Parish newsletter or his own blog. Or for his sake, he was following the lies on his CV to get the job – and was really fresh of the train from Chengdu on his RTW via China gap year but decided a career mud raking on the fourth estate was for him.

Never a phone did ring during my tenure...Well, the odd call from a foreign hack seeking assistance (we used to laugh loud at them down the line for being so naive), or a wrong number.

Editors lashing out about crap and late copy? I tired that once and had to write an apology and self criticism piece or else they were going to take my ping-pong bat away and ban me from the skipping.

No, not a squeak from the self censoring hacks and hackettes of mighty CD or the growling legions of editors did I once hear! All were too busy huddled over their screens surfing the net to rip off quotes, info, etc. One chap was using the same quotes for three years on his education beat. It was only after I did a search that I realised he had ripped it originally off Googled site - and then set about using forthwith for all his stories, as the CD search engine then showed.

CD and its website don’t do anyone any good, really, does it? Xinhua is the best PR machine. Tried and tested and straight from the horse’s lying mouth. And they don’t give a hoot if you lift wholesale and credit or not.

Poor Mr. Flemming; the same article was reprinted verbatim from China Daily on OTDNews, a Nanjing-based, English-language portal. Mr. Flemming was similarly credited/snubbed, although I'm not sure why "Lois", an "editor" at OTDNews, also received a credit...perhaps editing skills there require a thorough knowledge of CTRL-C and CTRL-V.

Chengdude, could you post the link from OTDnews? I can't find it...

The root cause of the plagiarism problem is that Chinadaily.com.cn doesn’t understand its responsibilities as the website of the official English-language newspaper of China. It is run totally separate from the print edition, hires its own staff, decides its own content, uses American English (when not chinglish) and apparently is even about to move to another building. It fancies itself as some sort of portal, Sina.com style English-language introduction to China, but obviously a couple of clicks and the game is up – there is nothing of any substance on there that can’t be found on other English-language news websites or Xinhua.net, and even if there was you would never be able to find it because it is a complete mess. Unfortunately, somehow somehow it is making money, so nothing is going to change. Not until someone files a long-overdue lawsuit anyway.

However, while it is easy to dismiss the website as some far-flung corner of the empire, it is still part of the China Daily Media Group, and still under control of the senior people here. Therefore, they are the ones who must understand that what is going on is wrong, embarrassing, and potentially costly. Sadly, I don’t think these senior officials have a clue what is going on…surprise surprise, they do not read Danwei.

Personally, I get tired of the sniping at China Daily, I think it has become something of a scapegoat, a symbol of some of the worst aspects of modern China. But to be honest, until a collective finger is pulled out, most of the time it deserves it. Strangely, while many (including the legion of bitter ex-copy editors) see China Daily as some decrepit SOE hangover, there is now a feeling of change in some parts of this organization, the feeling that what you say may be taken seriously and be acted upon. Gradually, younger, well-trained Chinese staff are joining and rising up the ranks, and the iron-rice bowl brigade are being elbowed out, and more attention is being paid to the quality of foreign staff. It is a slow process, and perhaps in a country developing so fast it is insufficient and doomed to failure, but nevertheless this organization is slowly starting to wake up.

I just hope the website morons stumble across this debate when they are trawling for the next thing to steal, and realize the damage they are causing.

As a "bitter ex China Daily copy editor" I would nevertheless agree with insider and the others that the print version of the paper is slowly improving. There are some within the paper's management (those who have studied and worked overseas) who are keen to see it raise standards and adopt some basic journalistic ethics and practices (like not plagiarising material). Unfortunately in the few cases where CD has unwittingly hired experienced journalists, their suggestions for change have been almost completely ignored. Some have tried bashing their heads against the brick wall, but China Daily IS still run like an SOE. There are many entrenched timeserving middle managers, resistant to change, whose only role seems to be show that they are in charge. The editor, Zhu Ling, has to deal with this dead wood" before he can make substantial chnages at China Daily. At the grassroots levels there are some very competent editorial staff but the rigid system does not reward editorial competence, let alone excellence.
And the underlying system at China Daily is unlikely to change. Its core purpose is to resemble a newspaper while acting as a mouthpiece for the government. Unlike newspapers in free and democratic societies it faces no competition and its editorial policies are strictly controlled by the authorities. With no need to compete to survive, the basic features of journalism that we take for granted in our press are wholly lacking at China Daily: real fundamentals like editorial independence, fact checking, seeking different and balanced points of view, avoidance of editorial and advertising conflicts of interest, and plagiarism.
And anyone who expects China Daily to improve substantially is living in a fantasy world. A real newspaper can only exist in a free society with basic individual rights and freedoms. Until China moves that way, the China Daily will continue to be a window dressing exercise.

Oh and yes, the website is run by idiots.

OTDNews link:


Try Leaking State Secrets (http://leakingstatesecrets.blogspot.com) for another insider's view of China Daily.

Leaking State Secrets was more about one man's descent from mid-life crisis into insanity than about the going's on at China Daily

Thanks Dave, I'm nearly recovered now, since I discovered the benefits of Scientology

Say hi to Hao Wu if you see him

Is he the Aussie editor at China Daily who received instructions from aliens. Where do they get them from?

I would be a bit more up in arms about this, but this sort of thing happens in the United States as well. Check out our post here and how we talk about the Associated Press: http://www.chinalawblog.com/chinalawblog/2006/05/international_l.html. No attribution and when we called them on it, their response was, "well it's possible one of our people got the memo on his own."

Is it really that bad at the China Daily? I have been offered a copy editing job there at a decent salary. I have more than 10 years of journalism experience and a degree in the field.

Thought it might interesting to work in Beijing and possibly move on to bigger things in China as the country opens up and English language journalism becomes more professional.

A pipe dream?

jomama: no offence, but with 10 years of experience, why would you even be thinking of taking a job polishing up bad english copy? In other words: like grandmaster flash once said, don't do it!

Could be interesting...and I've poslished up a lot of bad English in my day.

What is so down to the downside?

Well, sure all over the world copyrights are denied and things are illegally copied, but denying that China is just a little bit worse is a bit naïf. A entrepreneur in China once told me that it's the way they are raised. The copy their examples and what they admire. So overall this is a good habit. This might be interesting to read, it's about IP protection: link.

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