Knock-offs of Disney apparel, toys and, of course, DVDs are so common here in the Mainland that none but the strictest IPR pundits raise an eyebrow about it anymore.
However, Beijing’s Shijingshan Amusement Park has got to take the cake for blatant infringement of an endless amount of trademarks. The park, until recently, waved proudly a slogan that stated “Disneyland is too far!”, and featured a virtual cornucopia of characters from various Disney, Dreamworks and Japanese cartoons – with absolutely no permission given by the trademark holders.
For Beijing kids that couldn’t make the trip down to HK Disney, the park offered up all the tots famous friends, including Mickey, Minni, Donald, Goofy, Snow White and her little men. And showing that its an equal-opportunity infringer, you could also shake hands with Shrek, get a hug from Hello Kitty or punch Doraemon in the gnads.
Located in Beijing’s Shijingshan district, the park is state-owned (something I’m sure delegations from the WTO are just going to love) and has been operating since 1986. One has to wonder how officials could have ever thought (at least post 2002) that this was a smart idea. However, one park visitor quoted in The Standard illustrated China’s concept of copyright well:
“I don’t understand why that is such a big problem. Shouldn’t others be able to use those characters besides [Disney]?”
The park has received some pressure of late from International media coverage, and seems to be changing (or rather adding) its stripes. Rather than go completely legit, it looks like the amusement park is turning to other things they can fake to spin a buck – including fake zebras! Despite having obviously painted-on stripes, a park worker maintains that, “just like there are many types of people (men, women, young, old, beautiful, and ugly), there are types of zebra, and that animal is one type of zebra.”
The bizarro part of the story is that this isn’t some backwater dinky amusement park in Jilin province, this is a major Beijing attraction with near a couple million visitors a year. It absolutely dumbfounds this laowai that a large amusement park, or business of any sort, would be so (blissfully) ignorant of international laws, particularly when the country is already in such potentially hot water with the WTO.
With similar industries making American kids face legal charges for piracy, one can only wonder if a behemoth like the Chinese government will have to pay up.
For a bit of a tour of the park, via a somewhat astounded Japanese media, check out this video. It has English subtitles, that seem to have been written by a fourth-grade ESL student, but you can get the gist of it. it has a great clip with the president of the park that goes something like this:
President: “We’ve got nothing to do with Disney really.”
Reporter: “So, there’s no Mickey Mouse here?”
President: “No, that’s a cat with big ears – look closely please.”