Making it mine - copyright or copy wrong?

By Erik Nilsson ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-07-18 09:14:52

Making it mine - copyright or copy wrong?

A woman paints decorative parts of palace lanterns in a factory in Pan'an, east China's Zhejiang province. Local palace lantern business saw a peak season as the traditional Chinese new year is approaching. The Chinese palace lantern is a popular decoration for the Spring Festival, Chinese new year on the Lunar calendar. [Photo/Xinhua]

Making it mine - copyright or copy wrong?
Iowa expat finds China connection
Making it mine - copyright or copy wrong?
Excuse me, while I check my phone

Tuntou village's palace-lantern industry shines a light on China's need to develop well-conceived and detailed management systems of intellectual property rights and their role in cultural heritage preservation.

The settlement's industry has no doubt created a brilliant local economy. The average annual salary is 15,000 yuan ($2,400) a year. Few locals migrate to cities. Instead, farmers from other villages migrate to Tuntou, the Party chief told me last year.

Zhang Fengjun, the only provincially designated intangible cultural heritage inheritor of palace lantern-making, says that's partly because he owns nine patents related to the craft born in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).

"I've been successful in introducing this heritage to the market and industrializing it," Zhang told me.

What I wasn't able to divine during the interview is exactly how innovative Zhang's patents are. Yet there doesn't seem to be evidence they've inhibited the preservation of intangible cultural heritage's legacy in Hebei province's Gaocheng county, which produces 90 percent of the world's palace lanterns.

But the very fact they exist begs sobering questions about ownership and cultural heritage.

One is: What kind of a precedent do such cases create?

While Gaocheng's heritage hasn't visibly suffered and has seemingly benefited - although we can only speculate about how history may have played out without the patents - it seems likely intellectual property rights may hinder other Chinese cultural heritage forms in other places.

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