Experts urge end to whining about tough piracy laws

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am

They say China needs to meet world standards

It is time for Beijing to stop complaining that China has been held to discriminatively high standards of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection by the west and learn to compete with other countries under the same international rules, a leading mainland scholar said.

Wu Handong, president of the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, said: 'We should not complain that the level of China's IPR protection system, which has been revised to meet the requirements of WTO entry, is too high.'

He said on the sidelines of an IPR forum in Beijing yesterday that Chinese enterprises must prepare for fierce global competition as the country fought to emerge as an innovation-driven economy in the next 15 years.

'If we insist on protecting IPR simply at the so-called proper level by our own standards, it would only result in self-isolation in the world and even self-elimination.'

Professor Wu said rampant piracy across the country was a result of an embarrassing lack of public awareness of the importance of IPR throughout Chinese history. 'The Chinese people usually regard theft as a shameful offence, but do not see counterfeiting as a serious problem. That's why we cannot stop piracy and counterfeiting.'

He said local officials, who tolerated piracy on the grounds of regional economic interests, and manufacturers and dealers of pirated goods, rather than innocent consumers, should be held responsible and duly punished.

He noted the US, Europe and Japan had changed their attitudes towards China in dealing with IPR issues. 'They recognise the Chinese government as a credible and responsible partner and have refrained from continuing hardline policies and waging wars of words with China.'

Instead, they sought co-operation with Beijing while targeting Chinese enterprises over rampant infringements, he added.

Zhu Xuezhong, another expert from the university, said China, especially in underdeveloped regions, faced a shortage of trained judges in dealing with a rising number of IPR disputes.

However, both professors said they were optimistic that China's IPR protection would succeed with growing government attention and a public awareness campaign.

Jeffrey Hardee, vice-president of the Business Software Alliance, said increasing public awareness had become a critical aspect.

'[Chinese authorities should] make businesses understand that they're expected to use legal software, and reinforce it though active law enforcement campaigns so that companies are actually penalised when infringements are uncovered,' he said.

He defended the alliance's recent claim that 90 per cent of mainland software was pirated in 2004, which Chinese officials reject.