Wednesday 23 January 2013

Infringing World of Warcraft theme park built in China

The online video game industry is a big industry: the global market for video games is forecasted to grow from US$67 billion in 2012 to US$82 billion in 2017. And it is an industry which protects its copyright fiercly (see here, here and here for recent posts about video games).

Within that industry one of the most popular games is World of Warcraft, a multi-player role playing game released by Bizzard Entertainment. World of Warcraft had over 10 million subscribers in October 2012 and is currently the world's most-subscribed multi-player role playing game.
In order to capitalise on World of Warcraft, and other games', successes, a theme park has been built in Changzhou, China: World Joyland. The park, which is not licensed by Blizzard Entertainment, is a clear rip-off of Blizzard's games but it stops short of directly copying the games. For instance, it is split into 5 different sections each representing a different game: Terrain of Warcraft (Warcraft), Universe of StarCraft (Starcraft), Island of Mystery, Moles World and World of Legend. The rides have names like "Splash of Monster Blood" and are populated by statues which look like the series' icons.

This comes as China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announces that it will establish a digital dispute-resolution centre to resolve IP disputes and online copyright issues.
Tao Dongshu, the deputy director of Electronic Science and Technology of the Ministry of Industry and Information Institute of Intellectual Property Forensics Center, said that as networks have become the main medium for transmission of content, the internet has been a major challenge in combating piracy.

One can't help but wonder whether China should refocus its efforts to combat intellectual property infringements offline before it tackles the online world. The clear message being communicated by China tolerating infringing US$48 million theme parks and infringing buildings, is that copyright isn't a right worth enforcing.
See more on copyright in China here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Blogger,

Are you seriously sure that the theme park’s infringment can be established? What do you mean by saying “but it stops short of directly copying the games”? How far is the theme part’s copying is away from “direct” copying? Is copying the ideas of a copyright work infringing?

Before drop off your conclusion to your readers, please tell us your reasoning and analysis. What are the particular copyright works being infringed here? Can substantial similarity being established between Blizzard’s works and the theme park (if the entire park can be regarded as a work), or between the individual items in Blizzard’s games and the individual items in the park. Is there any defenses available to the theme park operator?


A Reader of the 1709 Blog

IP Dragon said...

Thanks for the update! This story started already in 2011:

Danny Friedmann

IP Dragon

Unknown said...

To answer the first comment I first must say that I don't know the ins and outs of copyright law in China, and I also don't know exactly how similar the statues of characters and other aspects of the park are to the actual World of Warcraft game. However from what I've seen, the park is designed to give visitors the impression that they are in a World of Warcraft game, implying that there must be certain similarities. Whether those similarities are sufficient for a court to deem that there has been copying of a substantial part I don't know, but I think the very fact that the park has been built says something about the attitude in China towards protection of intellectual property rights. It remains to be seen whether Blizzard can/will take action!