Howard French has an interesting article up on Beijing News’s continuing lawsuit against the internet portal Tom.com for posting some 25,000 of its articles and photos without permission over the last few years. He puts the suit in the larger context of the "war" between print and online media: while newspapers have proliferated wildly in China over the last 10 years, internet news services have grown faster, are cheaper and can steal content with ease in an intellectual property "no-man’s land" like China, as he puts it (although, to be fair, Chinese newspapers themselves are far from innocent when it comes to pinching others’ articles).
And so, in honor of this landmark case, I’d like to reproduce the article (but only part of it) in this space without Mr French or the New York Times’ express written consent:
Now, as has happened in the United States and many other countries, with computer usage and broadband access both booming here, newspapers are losing readers — especially among young, prosperous city dwellers — to large corporate-owned Web sites. What set China apart from much of the rest of the world, until recently, was that these Web sites faced no legal obstacles in copying material from newspapers, often wholesale.
"There is a very brutal competition between newspapers, with seven or eight big ones just in Beijing, and now a big new player, the Internet, wants to wipe them all out, to change the landscape," said Yu Guofu, a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property matters.
"The press is leading a hard life and facing an unpleasant future, but it has decided it is better to protect its rights than just sit and wait to die," Yu said.
According to one recent academic study, newspaper readership in China has declined sharply in the past three years, with the proportion of people who say they read a newspaper at least once a week falling to 22 percent from 26 percent since 2003.