China copyright

As is true in most of the world, one need not actually register a copyright to have one in China. 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. Foreign companies too often think this is no big deal, figuring that if anyone infringes on their copyright, they will register it and then sue. The problem is that securing a copyright registration in China typically takes 12-18 months.

If a Chinese company is violating your copyright and you cannot sue for another year, it becomes difficult to stop the Chinese company from infringing. You can write a cease and desist letter, of course, but it will not be very 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 needs to worry. 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 and in the EU. Because of this, when we do such registrations, we usually just track what has already been done in the U.S. or the EU.

Registering video games in China usually 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. Our China copyright lawyers typically bundle up all artwork and register that in one filing. The exact physical item sent to the registration authority depends on the nature of the work.

China copyright registrations are not expensive and it is better to register too much rather than too little.

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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.