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Chinese dilemma?


Scoobyqueen

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Chinese might not have traditionally had strong notions of things like copyright and intellectual property, however they definitely had a tradition of not sharing knowledge - especially in the areas of trades and skills. These things were often closely guarded family secrets, even to the point where such things weren't taught to daughters, because the daughter would marry into another family and possibly provide the knowledge to that family. Ask your chinese friend who says Chinese have a tradition of sharing knowledge if she's ever heard of the phrase "教会徒弟,饿死师父".

As for what the real Chinese view is, I imagine different people have different opinions, and you'll not find one "real view". This is so in the west also, where the notion of what copyright and intellectual property is, is undergoing change, largely in part to the Internet and the digital revolution and the ease with which many things can now be copied. Not to mention, with the overreaching restrictions that many companies and corporations are trying to impose on consumers in the name of protecting intellectual property, and the growing opposition from consumers and advocacy groups who see the situation as out of hand, and are trying to restore some balance (see for example things like the free software movement, creative commons etc etc).

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There's no such thing as a "Chinese view" on sharing knowledge, just like there is no such thing as a "non-Chinese view" on the same.

I'm not Chinese, and I find "Intellectual Property" to be the dumbest concept ever. How can you "steal" knowledge? You can steal my mobile phone, but I dare you to steal my knowledge without physically inflicting brain damage on me (which is assault).

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I think this is a legitimate question. (Though the 3 examples sound quite lame.) It’s a matter of law enforcement rather than a cultural matter. In America, as I understand it, serious copyright protection only became reality some years ago. Music piracy is common, software piracy is less common because people have ways to get them one way or another (e.g. buy a new hardware), movie piracy is rare because Hollywood dare to sue people.

Overall I think copyright protection will continue, but people will pay less and less or even nothing. The business mode of charging people for something they can get free is not sustainable. That’s why Google is winning over Microsoft. (Though the corporation market is a different story.)

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Oh China is very serious about IP when it is a matter of the state! When we talk about intellectual property, I think we need to not just think about music and software and DVDs. Even more serious is the corporate espionage and IP theft of non-commodity products. Millions of dollars or euros spent in time and R&D for the design and manufacture of non-commodity products, and corporate espionage is very real and very much a threat.

Huawei, China's poster-boy for telecom, does not allow ANYONE to bring any sort of external memory, hard drives, mobile phones or cameras into their facilities in China. This is all checked in the entrance by a security team. The reason? Rampant theft of designs and internal documents. Huawei is an excellent company, but there are many other companies who would like a piece of their engineering know-how. When my company's sales team tried to sell our product (which contains internal storage), they had to leave it all in the car, go in an do the presentation (it had to be e-mailed to one of Huawei's employees first), and then if any one in Huawei was interested, they came back to the hotel with our sales team to watch a demo.

(Huawei is not the only company like this, Ericsson in Sweden is the same, but not quite as strict. I am just pointing out Huawei because I know for sure that the Chinese in Huawei are very serious about IP.)

The former company I worked at was very naive when it came to their designs. It was a medium size Japanese company and they wanted to move the production of the larger scale products to China. It was the first time they ever opened up an operation outside of Japan. So they hired Chinese engineers and employees, and within the first month they found several of the employees, from engineer to admin assistant, where trying to sneak out designs and internal documents. What does the average person do with engineering documents for various commercial-grade antenna designs? It is surely a case of corporate espionage.

The employees could not be taken to court for IP theft, so in the end they just had to fire them. There is nothing in place in the legal system to discourage other employees from trying to dip their hand in the cookie jar for some easy money.

Of course China is not the only ones guilty of this, it happens all over the world. The problem is that in China one can get away with it much more readily, so the only way to protect your company's advantage in the market is to be extremely vigilant. Somehow though I'm sure if you snuck something out of Huawei or one of the state's joint ventures and were caught, the judicial system would be swift to punish you.

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Seems to me that East Asians in general have the attitude that information/truth is precious, a powerful weapon in the great fight of life. You keep it to yourself as much as you can, but get as much as you can from other people. They think that the frank talk of westerners is unwise, sometimes uncouth, and also that westerners are hypocrites, pretending to be honest, when genuine honesty is often impossible or undesirable.

(obviously all individuals are different, but we can still discuss general trends across a culture)

Attitudes to copying are also a bit different because there is less idea of self-expression in answers.

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I was told by friend in China that knowledge is free and that no one should keep this to themselves. This is part of thousands of years of tradition.

Chinese people often look to their culture as an excuse to justify almost anything, from copy homework to insider trading:

U.S. prosecutors this year have stepped up efforts to combat insider trading. A former Bear Stearns Cos. broker last week became the ninth person to plead guilty in a wide-ranging insider case that also involved UBS AG and Morgan Stanley employees. In August, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. associate pleaded guilty to making more than $6.7 million through illegal trades.

McMahon ordered the couple to pay $611,000 in restitution. She staggered the couple's prison terms, ordering Wang to prison after Chen completed his sentence.

The judge said she was ``mystified'' why the couple, both ``classic overachievers'' raised in China, would trade on inside information. Wang's lawyer, Catherine Redlich, said there may have been a ``cultural'' basis for the crime

Sadly, these events really show how culturally bankrupt chinese people really are. Harsh, but true.

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I am just pointing out Huawei because I know for sure that the Chinese in Huawei are very serious about IP.

That's sort of ironic. I work for a company in the same line of business as Huawei, and their first datacard circuit board was uncannily similar to ours. Except where we had our wireless LAN chip, there was just a big open space on theirs, because they didn't support that feature. My company has stopped certifying our products in Chinese test houses since then (as this involves releasing detailed schematics and a bill of materials), preferring to work with subsidiaries in countries with more mature and enforcable IP laws.

Of course, Huawei has come a long way since then, and introduced their own, original design innovations, but apparently at some point they didn't feel there was anything wrong with giving themselves a leg up with other companies' ideas at the start of an engineering project.

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Re: Huawei

When I worked for Siemens, exactly the same things happened with Philips, Lucent, General Electric etc. They "steal" ideas from each other in bunches which is why even already patented things are never written on a piece of paper, because the window cleaners, the janitors, the guys from the office next door, the cook in the canteen, they are all often involved in industrial espionage.

The huge corporations rarely sue each other for patent infringement and such -- they are far too well covered by their patent portfolios to risk it. Patent protection only serves to protect entrenched players against young startups who endanger their profit margins.

It's funny how nobody was bothered by the RAMPANT industrial espionage and reverse engineering going on in the West for the last 150 years, until the inferior, culturally corrupt Chinese guy showed up to blame. Look, even insider trading IN THE USA is now due to sick Chinese culture, as if they've invented it or something.

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Renzhe,

t's funny how nobody was bothered by the RAMPANT industrial espionage and reverse engineering going on in the West for the last 150 years, until the inferior, culturally corrupt Chinese guy showed up to blame. Look, even insider trading IN THE USA is now due to sick Chinese culture, as if they've invented it or something.

I think I mentioned in my post that it isn't just China, so why don't you go back and re-read it. The espionage that happens has been going on for years. Americans stole from Europe. Israelis and Japanese stole from America in the 70s and 80s. I imagine that when China has built up its industry and they have their own specialization there will be another country stealing from it.

And everyone was bothered by it when Japan was performing their industrial espionage. It was a big deal in the 1980s, a problem the US government had the FBI even looking into regularly. The Japanese denied it like the Chinese are now and its the same old game over again. Perhaps you ought to look into things more than just getting defensive about whatever someone says about China.

I don't agree with Outcast and his assertion about cultural bankruptcy. I must admit I've never heard of corporate spies trying to claim insider trading is "cultural", then again, that was probably the lawyer speaking and lawyers will say anything. I suspect it is more just a cop-out and the guilty are trying to get off.

However, I also don't agree with your view on IP. For someone who worked in telecom I'd think you'd know better than to say stuff like the following:

I'm not Chinese, and I find "Intellectual Property" to be the dumbest concept ever. How can you "steal" knowledge? You can steal my mobile phone, but I dare you to steal my knowledge without physically inflicting brain damage on me (which is assault).

Knowledge is what is published in papers and journals and textbooks. Sadly it isn't free, but it isn't that expensive either, just a $100-$200 a year in subscriptions. Knowledge is NOT computer software (i.e. Windows) or engineering designs or private financial research. As much as you may not like the price, such things are the application of knowledge into real products and what not. It is pure and simple theft.

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Well, I strongly disagree with the assertion that large corporations ignore patent infringements, but I certainly never meant to imply that Chinese culture is inferior. That's not my opinion and I don't think it can be read from my post.

However, I do believe the state of IP protection in China right now is not at the level of its peer economies, and it will have to deal with that in the not too distant future.

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I obviously didn't mean that you personally were blaming the Chinese for inventing "IP theft". You're right, a similar thing (in terms of newspaper coverage) happened with Japan, another east Asian country.

The truth is that there are certain stereotypes which still live in the European and American consciousness. The Germans are hard working and wise, the Americans are practical, the Chinese are diligent, but too stupid to think on their own, the blacks are criminal, the Arabs are terrorists, etc. It's unfortunate, but it's true.

And it is one of the reasons why the Chinese right now get so much flak over IP protection, whereas Turkey, the entire East Bloc, South America etc. don't (at least nowhere near this level). People, at a certain level, expect that Chinese are too dumb to be inventive, and can only prosper by stealing the Euro wisdom. The fact that the wise Euros steal from each other is not something that the newspapers will write about, or anything anyone will read.

I believe that most posters on this forum do not think like this, because of the very nature of this forum, but I personally know a Chinese person who failed her MBA exam in Germany because she dared to suggest in an oral exam that the German companies didn't transfer all of the knowledge to the Chinese side while building the Transrapid. The German prof simply couldn't handle this disobedience, despite references to contemporary Chinese articles and such. He wanted to hear that the Germans were educating the Chinese, who can't think. Otherwise, you fail your exam.

I basically went off on a rant after the "culturally bankrupt" comment.

Knowledge is what is published in papers and journals and textbooks. Sadly it isn't free, but it isn't that expensive either, just a $100-$200 a year in subscriptions.

It is basically free because you can read it in a public library.

What pisses me off is when some company reads all this body of knowledge FOR FREE (most of it is on the internet anyway), adds a tiny change, patents the whole thing, and then nobody is allowed to do anything similar for the next 20 years.

It is pure and simple theft

It simply isn't theft, and it is not considered theft in any country in the world. It is considered copyright infringement, which is a separate category. Nothing is lost through copying, it is duplicated.

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I'm sorry, but I side mostly with what Renzhe is saying. If for example I go to a store and steal a CD, that is depriving someone of their physical property, and something that took time and money to create (I'm talking about the physical CD here and not the cost of producing the content on the CD). If I download a song from the internet, the copy costs nothing and it's not depriving anyone of their physical property.

This of course still leaves the problem that the artist isn't being compensated for their work - however this is separate issue. No one is saying that content creators shouldn't be compensated for their work, but to suggest (as for example organisations like the RIAA do) that I should pay for a song (or some other piece of content) for each device I want to play it on, or each time I listen/watch it is ludicrous.

I don't see it as the fault of the consumer if the companies in charge of content are unable to adapt to a disruptive technology when it comes along. There are plenty of ways that artists can be reasonably compensated for their work, without criminalising consumers who make copies of the work for their own private, non-commercial use.

An excellent example is the SF author Cory Doctorow. He releases all of his novels and stories for free on the Internet, without any sort of DRM or content protection, and encourages people to download, share and read them. Having the content freely available actually helps sell the physical published books - his latest novel Little Brother is currently on the New York Times' best-seller list, despite the fact (or more likely because of the fact) that it is freely available for download on his website. (I say 'because of the fact', because it acts as free advertising. People can suggest the book - or other books that he has written - to their friends, and if people like what they read, they are likely to go out and buy it).

What I find sooo wrong is that through "lobbying" companies like Disney can perpetually extend copyright to the disadvantage of society. By disadvantage, I don't just mean that people aren't able to make copies and knockoffs of Mickey Mouse, I mean that currently there exists a large body of orphaned works (i.e. a copyrighted work where it is difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder) that would currently be in the public domain (and therefore available for archivists, historians, hobbyists, people interested in creating derivative works etc) if it wasn't for the fact that everytime Mickey Mouse's copyright comes up, Disney successfully lobbies to have the copyright of *all* works extended, depriving society of the use of a large body of work that would otherwise be in the public domain. That is what I find sooo wrong.

Copyright is not some unalienable right assigned to the content creator. It was always designed as a limited right, granted to the creator to encourage them to create content in exchange for a limited time with which they would be able to benefit financially for their work. It was designed to encourage content creation, which is exactly the opposite of the current system, which encourages people to rest on the laurels of their first/most successful creation.

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And it is one of the reasons why the Chinese right now get so much flak over IP protection, whereas Turkey, the entire East Bloc, South America etc. don't (at least nowhere near this level). People, at a certain level, expect that Chinese are too dumb to be inventive, and can only prosper by stealing the Euro wisdom. The fact that the wise Euros steal from each other is not something that the newspapers will write about, or anything anyone will read.

I don't think it has to do as much with stereotypes, rather I think it has to do with China's growing economic and strategical important in the world. Whether that is fair or not is another question. No one really complains about Taiwan even though Microsoft discovered a Taiwanese factory pumping out volumes of pirated Windows XP. I think that is because Taiwan is not playing on the same world scale as China, the EU and NAFTA.

I believe that most posters on this forum do not think like this, because of the very nature of this forum, but I personally know a Chinese person who failed her MBA exam in Germany because she dared to suggest in an oral exam that the German companies didn't transfer all of the knowledge to the Chinese side while building the Transrapid. The German prof simply couldn't handle this disobedience, despite references to contemporary Chinese articles and such. He wanted to hear that the Germans were educating the Chinese, who can't think. Otherwise, you fail your exam.

That is quite unfortunate, and a shame that the teacher didn't act better. All companies tend to not open up their know-how to the foreign branches unless it is necessary. I know the Japanese operate this way in North America, just as the Germans do in Japan. It is normal business practice. Companies don't open up overseas branches to "teach" (of course academics love to believe this though!). They open up branches overseas to make more money or launch a new business venture that will generate more income or business opportunity.

What pisses me off is when some company reads all this body of knowledge FOR FREE (most of it is on the internet anyway), adds a tiny change, patents the whole thing, and then nobody is allowed to do anything similar for the next 20 years.

I agree with on this issue completely, and I hope that it will be one of the big issues of this century that someone eventually tackles. Patenting processes (i.e. online checkout) that exist in the real world (checkout) for millenniums is ridiculous.

It simply isn't theft, and it is not considered theft in any country in the world. It is considered copyright infringement, which is a separate category. Nothing is lost through copying, it is duplicated.

I'm curious what you consider you IP. Where do you draw the line? I agree that there are A LOT of problems with IP law in this current day, but calling it bollocks and ignoring IP laws in the EU or North America or Taiwan isn't the best idea either. (It's an ancient concept, and even goes back to the time of guilds)

For example, most R&D/design companies (startup, medium and large) that create new technology don't physically produce the technology. They spend their money on the R&D and they then license out their technology to companies that have the ability to produce something. It is a given fact that the start-ups are the ones that have to do this--for sure they can't own and operate a foundry being a start-up!

Take nVidia, for example. The research and create new graphics technology. They do not, however, produce the physical graphics cards. There are companies in Taiwan that own huge factories for creating computer parts. Those Taiwanese companies license nVidia's technology and sell the video cards to consumers. Both nVidia and the Taiwanese company make a profit this way.

Suppose that someone inside nVidia leaks the IP on the Internet or maybe even sells for a small price. If it were leaked, now any company in the world that has the foundry can create the physical hardware. No need for the contract with nVidia anymore! The foundry are making a profit, but nVidia didn't get a dime. So what is their incentive to create something better? Well, if they have the ability to sue for IP infringement they can stay in business and continue creating new technology.

If, on the other hand, they have no ability to go after the companies freely using their design, then they no longer have a reason to create anything. If they do, someone will leak their next design and the process repeats.

Along the same line of thought, what is the incentive for a start-up to come up with a new idea if someone will just "duplicate" 100% your idea and make money off of it? Unless the get enough of a capital injection to be able to afford their own foundry from the beginning, what is the point?

While IP laws are troublesome with large companies building patent portfolios, IP laws also protect small companies too.

I don't know...maybe our ideas of IP are not the same???

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this is just soooo wrong, on sooo many levels.

This comment would be much more useful if you illustrated it on at least three levels.

I've published music, software, have worked in R&D, and still work in a scientific field right now and publish my results. Perhaps if you were more specific, I could address your points individually.

If I publish something in a scientific journal, I do not lose possession of anything. My knowledge is spread, but I didn't lose anything. Nobody comes to my house and steals my fridge.

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Suppose that someone inside nVidia leaks the IP on the Internet or maybe even sells for a small price. If it were leaked, now any company in the world that has the foundry can create the physical hardware. No need for the contract with nVidia anymore! The foundry are making a profit, but nVidia didn't get a dime. So what is their incentive to create something better? Well, if they have the ability to sue for IP infringement they can stay in business and continue creating new technology.

This is a problem with the economic system, which only values things you can sell. So you must sell ideas in order to make profit of intellectual work. If you took away IP legislation completely, then nVidia and similar companies would have to go back to trade secrets where possible, and the rest of the research would fall back to universities and research institutes which get their funding elsewhere, or people who develop ideas because they enjoy it, and not only for money. The upside would be that I wouldn't be arrested for watching a DVD on Linux.

The concept is still dumb, IMHO. You can't "own" an idea, and it clearly isn't property.

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