In both the United States and in China, one need not actually register one’s copyright to have one. This oftentimes leads companies not to bother registering their copyrights.
The problem with not registering your copyright in China is that it is nearly impossible to prevail in a copyright lawsuit unless and until your copyright has been registered. American companies too often think this is no big deal, figuring that if anyone infringes on their copyright, they will simply register it and then sue. However, the problem with this thinking is that securing the actual copyright registration in China typically takes from 12-18 months.
If a Chinese company is violating your copyright and you cannot sue for another year, it becomes very difficult to stop the Chinese company from infringing. You can write a cease and desist letter, of course, but it will not be all that powerful because you will not be able to cite to any registered copyright and the infringing company will figure it has at least another year or so before it really need worry much. This delay is particularly problematic for gaming companies because by the time they can sue for a copyright violation of their game, that game may no longer even exist in its previous incarnation.
Registering copyrights for video games in China is very much like doing so in the United States. Because of this, when we do such registrations, we usually just track what has already been done in the U.S. Registering video games in China consists of the following:
- Registering the source code using China’s special software registration rules.
- Registering the artwork as a work of art. The normal strategy for video games is to treat each character as a work of art. If there are special locations, these are also treated as a work of art. All the artwork is then collected into a bundle and is registered in one filing. The exact physical item that is sent to the registration authority depends on the nature of the work. Registration is not expensive and it is better to register too much rather than too little.