IP Protection

People peruse pirated DVDs in ChinaA group of Chinese writers is accusing Google of copyright infringement after the company scanned their books as part of its massive Google Library project, China Daily reported Wednesday. We're used to hearing about China failing to enforce U.S. copyright laws—but not the reverse. Is copyright law in China any different from in the United States?

Not substantially so. China has signed onto both major international copyright treaties—the century-old Berne Convention and the decade-old Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS Agreement—which set minimum standards for copyright regulation. Under these agreements, writers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers are granted "automatic" rights to any work they produce—i.e., they don't have to formally register a trademark. Signatories must also extend copyright at least 50 years after the author's death and treat computer programs as copyrighted work. For the most part, China's statutes resemble those in the United States: You can't steal or profit from someone else's work. If you do, the injured party can either alert the agency in charge of copyright regulation or sue you in court.

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