Among Trump’s many accusations against China, violating intellectual property rights is one of the constant divergence between the two nations. Put aside those ideological conflict between politicians and complicated corporate behaviors, how about the copyright awareness of majority in China at present? Do they really download pirated content frequently?
Let’s take a look in several areas.
Pirated productions: once widespread, now almost extinct
It is undeniable that at the end of the last century and the beginning of 21th century, Chinese people consumed pirated books, music, cartoons, movies. The situation was quite bad before.
At that time, the majority had little habit of paying for content, even though original products were much cheaper in China than in North America-if not so, the basic habit for buying legal copies might never be developed. Of course due to the size of the Chinese market, lower prices could still provide publishers a lot of profit.
At that time, pirated books and pirated CDs could be bought at extremely cheap prices from illegal vendors. If you don’t want to spend even a cent, pirated resources of music, animations, movies could be find everywhere on the Interent- you don`t even have to search intentionally. At the moment, China also lacked neccessary regulations to punish users from consuming piracated products, and even if there were, the cost to practice was too high.
But things are changing rapidly in China.
It may be difficult to change the consumption habits of Chinese users, mainly because of China’s extremely large population and complicated socio-economic factors. As a result, the Chinese government has chosen to start at the source and make great efforts to crack down on pirated traders.
China lacks large-scale crackdowns on piracy at the official level, but several “net actions” in China have objectively dealt a heavy blow to pirated content.
The purpose of the net cleaning itself was not to eliminate piracy. On the face of it, those actions mainly aimed at pornographic and violent content, which was as rampant on the Chinese Internet as pirated content during at period. Furthermore, those actions also had the potential function for the Chinese government to filter and control the literary and artistic content on the Internet.
Of course, as you believe, because pirated resources are often located in sites that also contain pornographic, violent, or at least suspicious content, these sites have been repeatedly swept out in different “net actions.”
Consequently, pirated literary content is now quite rare in China. Legal streaming media allow users to buy paid content or consume the free ones, while most pornographic and violent contents lack convenient access in China which make them unreachable for the majority.
Of course, there have always been illegal organizations or individuals trying to provide pirated content for profit, but in China, except the law enforcement, they are also facing the impact from commercial institutions. Because the large Internet corporations, such as Tencent and Baidu, are often the agents of genuine content in China. To protect their interests, it is necessary for these corporations to prosecute and sue organizations or individuals who provide illegal content. To a large extent, the actions taken by capitals enterprises fills the gap in China’s copyright law enforcement, which establish a better commercial environment for original product.
It is worth mentioning that even today, the average price of Chinese books is still relatively low, especially textbooks. College students do not have to borrow textbooks from libraries-they are affordable for most of them. This is one of the biggest differences between Chinese genuine market and North America.
Pirated games: the situation in China is no different from the other regions
The problem of pirated games is quite serious alll over the world. If you are a game lvoer, you may aware that the pirated games in China does not cause any particular damage.
Unlike pirated movies and animations, despite pirated games are also sold with illegal physical copies, the core carrier is still digital copies which are downloaded from websites, such as the notorious “3DM net” in China. This is because campared to movies and animations, making pirated version of a game is more complicated from the technical level. Tests must be made to ensure that games could be successfully installed and run on different devices.
As a result, pirated games are often accessible only for players who at least have some basic digital skills. Naturally, they prefer to download pirated digital copies directly rather than buy physical ones. In addition to downloading directly from specialized game download sites, they also use BT seeds and ed2k networks, as well as related clients and search engines, like all the other pirated users around the world.
Of course, what has changed all this is the expanding game console market, the more complex encrpytion tachniques, and the rising of Steam on PC gaming market, Just like what happened in the rest of the world.
The number of game consoles in China used to be very rare (and now it still does not account for a high proportion). However, with the increasing number of players, they have reacheed the market logic of “physical coppies can be sold second-hand”. It is no longer necessary to crack their consoles and download pirated games.
The improvement in mobile games is that they combine social and gaming content, which are now more popular than single-player game in China. In addition, other “grey areas” are better choices for ordinary players, such as buy other people’s game accounts or mass-produced “resource accounts”.
For example, in games with login awards, some illegal vendors will sign up vast new accounts through scripts to gain abundant free game resources and sell to users. These accounts still stay in very early stage of those games, and are far easier for players to start playing. Actually, this is not a legal business, yet it also can not be defined as piracy—it is a area of morally grey.
On the PC, the revolution leading by Steam also rapidly changed Chinese gaming market. Because Steam provides more convenient platform for pruchase, installation and update, mod subscription, fan community, and other functions. Since then, compared with pirated games, the playing experience of original games has been greatly improved, therefore, pirated gamers have also suddenly decreased. On this point, PC players in China and other countries are almost the same now.
Other pirated softwares: hard to survive
Despite Windows, the mainstream operating system in China PC market, used to be widely illegally copied and installed, the situation now has changed. Since 2001, under the leadership of the State Administration of Press and Publication (the copyright administration department), the Chinese government has begun to promote genuine softwares and improve the commercial environment.
In 2006, the Ministry of Information Industry, the State Copyright Administration and the Ministry of Commerce jointly issued a notification that require personal computers produced in China must install legal operating system, so do the imported computers. This has become a mandatory rule that continues to this day, and the coverage of original Windows in China has rapidly increased since then.
It is important to note that Apple computers never faces the similar problem. Other niche operating systems are used in China only by people who are usually tech enthusiast or have very special needs. Most of them are relatively professional and usually willing to pay for genuine softwares.
As for other office softwares, such as the Adobe series which are commonly used in professional work, there is a distinct increase in the number of Chinese commercial agents and as result of that, the pirated issue is becoming less obviouse. In short, legal software agents, led by CJ Marketing, will initiatively and intensively sue pirated users, even if they do not cover every legitimate software sales in China.
So if you use pirated office software in China, you will not face direct penalty from companies which locate far away, but with local lawyers showing up in front of you. It also makes pirated software be rarely used by Chinese corporations-if do so, the consequences of being found could be very severe.
On the mobile devices, users who choose to crack their iPhones and use the cracked app are the minority whether in China or foreign countries, therefore, this phenomenon does not particularly occur in China. As for Android, due to the popularization of subscription, there are declining apps that can be used without login or network, and the problem of piracy will be solved sooner or later.
Indeed, China was a country where piracy was rampant decades ago, but it was mainly due to the poor level of economic develpoment at that time, and the development and popularization of information technology was also very backward, hence it had the same social issue as all backward countries did. This has no significant relationship with China’s policies, markets, user habits, and so on.
After the government strongly promoted the copyright awareness in 2001, the situation in China has greatly improved. By 2009 at the latest, consuming the legal content has become the mainstream. For the major Chinese users, legal video websites , where can watch TV series, animations and movies, cost only a few hundred yuan per year, and offical music sites are even cheaper, therefore, they have few reason to take the risk of searching piracy.
Nowadays, China has bloacked dozens of overseas websites because of violating laws and censorship policies, while domestic ones will be charged by large capitals. As a result, very few sites on the Chinese Internet could provide abundant pirated content at present. If you still think China is a “country of piracy”, it is time to reconsider about that.