Tommy Siu, 15, Hong Kong, has lived in Beijing for six years
Océane Duprat, 15, France, has lived in Beijing for over three years
Hannah Jang, 16, South Korea, has lived in Beijing three years
Franklin Sunkuli, 16, Kenya, has lived in Beijing one year
Copyrights don’t seem to apply in Beijing, where DVDs and CDs are sold for a dime a dozen on every available street corner and market in the city. Chinese websites such as Youku and Baidu make downloading not only ubiquitous, but easy. The idea of obtaining formal and legal permission from the creator of the original work to copy or produce something – an abbreviated definition of "copyrights" – is almost unheard of in Beijing. So much so that even the most responsible expats, and locals alike, aren’t even aware of what is legal and illegal anymore. We asked four students from the British School of Beijing about copyrights and whether or not they matter to them.
Where do you get most of your music?
Tommy: I use a program called Limewire; you can download music for free from the Internet.
Océane: I mostly download from the Internet.
Franklin: Yeah, I download also. Every once in a while, I’ll buy a CD.
Hannah: Same, I download from Limewire.
When would you ever buy a CD, as opposed to downloading it?
Franklin: If I really liked an artist, I would buy a CD instead of downloading it. I would feel like I’m supporting the artist I like.
Hannah: I can’t think of a time I bought a CD! I can’t even remember the last CD I bought.
Do you think copyright laws are more strictly enforced in your home country?
Tommy: I think there are less bootleg DVDs and CDs. In any case, it’s not as easy to find. It’s really hard to find "real" stuff in China. It’s way harder to go into a department store and find an authentic DVD than it is to just pop into one of the numerous DVD shops on the street.
Océane: Oh yeah, definitely, the rules are so strict in France. I wouldn’t even think of looking for bootleg copies there!
Where do you get your DVDs and how much do you spend on them?
Tommy: I mostly pick some up in the DVD stores in China; it’s so easy. I would say I spend about RMB 100-150 a month.
Océane: I spend maybe RMB 150 a month. You just get so much for that price. In France, the price I pay to get about 20 DVDs [here in China]would probably only get me one DVD! They’re comparatively expensive there.
Do you think copyright laws should be strictly enforced?
Océane: I think they should, but it would be so hard to monitor this sort of stuff online.
Tommy: I really like free music, and I think so does everyone. Why would anyone pay if you could get it for free? But I probably wouldn’t want anyone taking my stuff without permission. If I was an artist, I would hope that people respect my stuff and ask for permission prior to using it.
Franklin: Yes, I think that people shouldn’t have their music stolen. It is difficult in most countries to track this, though.
Should music, books and movies just be free, then?
Tommy: Yeah, I think they should, but then the producers wouldn’t make money. Maybe the cost of these items should reflect the economy of the country. For example, in a developing country, access to music, movies, books would be cheaper than in a more developed country.
Océane: I don’t really know if that would work.
Franklin: Yeah, I think that would be a really difficult system.
Do you think about copyrights in your day-to-day life?
Tommy: Well, it’s just so common, downloading music and movies. All of our friends do it. I do feel bad though because it seems like the people that should get the money aren’t receiving it.
Océane: It doesn’t seem as big of an issue in Beijing.