IP and Law

The paradox of IPR infringement in China

Gao Qinrong is a Chinese journalist who was imprisoned for eight years on trumped up charges after he reported on an abuse of power in Shanxi: a Potemkin irrigation project that did not irrigate anything but allowed local officials to impress visitors and embezzle money.

Both the Southern Metropolis Daily and Southern Weekend recently published interviews with him. Both articles were translated into English by Roland Song (SMD, SW), while Danwei's Joel Martinsen followed up with a translation of a relevant article in China Week about how journalists covered corruption in the early years of the People's Republic (link).

The China Daily website has published one of Soong's translations and Martinsen's. The articles are reproduced verbatim, without credit to the translators or their websites.

Should one be happy that the nation's flagship English newspaper's website is publishing this kind of edgy stuff, or annoyed by the flagrant plagiarism?

At Danwei, we'll settle for the former.

Note: The China Daily website is managed rather independently from the newspaper, and frequently publishes articles from other websites which do not usually make it into the print edition.

There are currently 12 Comments for The paradox of IPR infringement in China.

Comments on The paradox of IPR infringement in China

I reckon you should be very annoyed that the China Daily website has flogged your translations. They are just a bunch of lazy no-hopers without a smidgin of talent.

Is it too much to ask that they both run the translation and give an attribution? I mean, how difficult would it have been, particularly since they did the tough part by running it at all.

Sweet irony given Roland's antidemocrat bias that his articles are being ripped off by his Beijing buddies.

CLB: You'd think that'd be reasonable, right? But given that I've been trying for a while now to have my name removed from this piece (actually by CD writer Yang Zhuoqiong), doing more than just pointing it out when it occurs is probably more hassle than it's worth.

Well, it certainly is a paradox for sure. I imagine the attitude of Danwei.org towards the whole thing is unique (with the possible exception of Roland Soong) in that its a not-for-profit outlet that takes interest in the trends of media (both Chinese and English language) in China, of which itself is undeniably a part. Therefore the filching of your intellectual property about a controversial story is, in itself, progress in the field of media liberalization in China that you can then report on (though I'm reminded of the old adage "Catch me a fish, I'll eat for a day. Teach me to fish, and I'll eat for life"). But it'd be nice if they paid you for it, or at least put a link to Danwei. I wonder how many people go trolling through the backwaters of the China Daily webpage for news that don't know about Danwei.

Another interesting angle on this: at a talk I went to in Beijing a few months ago, JG mentioned that no one from the government had ever approached him about him nor had he ever run into any related censorship issues or anything with Danwei. Yet once an arm of the government (albeit the black hole of the CD website) starts running your work, does it become more risky? Its certainly a horse of a different color from "that's Beijing" running stuff from Danwei. What if some flunky from Xinhua.net picks up the story from CD and runs it on their site and it gains a buzz? Here I'm thinking about the press conference where Wikipedia got mentioned offhand, and before we knew it, Chinese and English were both blocked, and though it would never reach so high as that, is there a greater risk once your translations start getting planted into more official news outlets? Maybe you don't want to attributed after all...

MICHEAL: Thanks for pointing out that those two Gao Qinrong interviews in SMD and SW are anti-democratically biased. Danwei readers might have been fooled otherwise.

The issue that nobody seems to be mentioning is that many of the posts on EWSN and other blogs are just as illegal. The material is clearly copyright by Southern Weekend or whoever published it in the first place, and the people whose work is being 'stolen' never received permission from the original source to post it on their blogs.

Obviously professional media outlets should be held to higher standards, but please don't pretend that the infringement is all one way.

At least most bloggers are giving credit to the paper for writing the story and linking to it. And with translations, unless the media outlet itself is going to do a translation of the material, it just gives said media outlet a wider audience.

Joel: I know someone at the chinadaily website, could find out what the policy is at least (maybe they can't officially link to you?) Maybe they're just lazy and stealing your work. Either way, could be interesting to find out...


Danwei's policy with translations is to get permission when we can. In all cases, we clearly identify the source of the material, and will remove articles if we receive complaints from copyright holders.

We never reproduce articles verbatim; we either quote excerpts from them or translate. I believe this is fair use, but many, including you, might not agree.

Turtlewind: For the particular Danwei post in question, permission was requested and received from both China Week and the author Wang Renlong prior to publishing the translation.

juhuacha: It would be interesting to hear what the website is up to. Let us know what you find out.

This discussion made me wonder what qualified as fair use under Chinese law, and I was surprised by how far-ranging it is. It looks like newspapers and other media (including blogs?) are allowed to copy "current event articles on the issues of politics, economy and religion... except where the author has declared that publication or broadcasting is not permitted" from other media sources without paying anything at all, as long as they give the name of the author and the title of the work.

(Source: http://www.fdi.gov.cn/pub/FDI_EN/Laws/law_en_info.jsp?docid=50926 )

Some of the other exceptions are even bigger - the one on minority language republication was particularly surprising.

So I completely take back what I said in my previous post; it looks like you guys were in the right all along.

What interests me here is the cart and horse issue of bloggers vs. traditional media outlets. What does a degree in or a career in journalism represent anymore, if Roland Soong becomes a more consistent, articulate, and reliable news source? (Not that I'd rely on China Daily for a fully accurate story anyway...)

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