From May 1982 to November 2014, I was 19 times in China (mainly in Beijing, but also in Shanghai, Nanking, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Kunming, Xian and Xiamen). All the nineteen times at copyright meetings.
Breathtaking. This is the word which may express the enormous changes which characterized this cca. 30 years in China. Spectacular developments have taken place in all fields: economy, science, technology, culture, social relations, standards of living, etc. Also in the field of copyright.
In May 1982, the very first international copyright event was held in Beijing. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), at the request of the National Publishers Association of China, organized a week-long copyright training course. The Chinese organizers had requested that, in addition to the then Director General of WIPO – dr. Arpad Bogsch – and his colleagues, there be also a lecturer from the US, one from Western Europe, and one from the Central and Eastern European region. It was due to this that, in addition to Alan Latman, the key copyright professor of New York University and Ivor Davies, the then Comptroller of the UK Patent Office, I – as the then Director General of the Hungarian Copyright Bureau – also had the great honor to participate in that historic event.
The last time – it was 19th time – when I attended a copyright event in China was at the Roundtable Meeting on Collective Management organized in Beijing in November 2014 by the EU-China IPKey intellectual property project, the third one after IPR1 and IPR2 in the latter of which I also had the honor to participate as an EU expert.
For considering and assessing the tremendous changes in the past 30 years in the field of copyright, it is worthwhile taking these two events – the 1982 WIPO course and the 2014 IPKey meeting – as kinds of snapshot and comparing them.
In 1982, copyright activities were reduced to the operation of a publishing agreement system and some limited-scope research carried out by a Study Group of the National Publishing Association of China. The members of the Study Group had already some ideas about copyright in accordance with the international standards, but for the majority of the more than 100 participants invited from the various parts of the country, the WIPO course rather offered a sort of general introduction to the most basic concepts of copyright.
In contrast, the IPKey meeting in November 2014 could not have been regarded anymore as a training program; it was duly characterized as a “roundtable” meeting since it was a forum of partnership; an excellent opportunity for exchanging information, experience and views. High quality dialogue took place between the IPKey management and the European speakers, on the one hand, and the Chinese officials and experts, on the other hand.
The times when basic copyright issues were still the topics to be covered had been forgotten. The meeting had the most up-to-date agenda to discuss current issues of collective management: measures to make management more transparent and better corresponding to the principles of good governance, online licensing of music, conditions and fields of application of mandatory and “extended” collective management, and so on. For us the EU experts, it was an opportunity to present the most important features of the new EU Directive on collective management adopted precisely nine months before the meeting, on 26 February 2014, while our Chinese partners shared with us the legal-political objectives and the contents of a draft law to amend the Copyright Law of the PRC concerning collective management.
Genuine, animated and fruitful debate took place in which the Chinese experts – among them young, well-prepared and elegantly arguing young professors of various universities – also expressed different views both with us and among them. At the end of the meeting it became sure that, on the key issues, all reasonable options had been reviewed, all relevant information had been shared and all arguments had been presented that were needed for well-informed decisions on the draft law under consideration in accordance with the international norms and standards.
When I went back to China in between 1982 and 2014 several times – in general as a WIPO official and later as a consultant of the Organization – the development and the step-by-step increase of the level of knowledge was already visible in the area of copyright but, in the last 10-15 years, all this has been explicitly accelerated and become spectacular. The EU-China IPR1 and IPR2 projects and then, in particular the IPKey project, obviously have contributed to this. In contrast with the WIPO programs which were also well prepared but which took place in a more sporadic manner dealing with certain specific issues, the EU-China projects have been construed and applied in a more continuous and persistent manner ensuring closer and more substantive contacts. The way I saw it, the obvious success of the various IPR and IPKey programs has been due not only to the timely and well-thought preparation and smooth organization of the various meetings and consultations but to a great extent also to the excellent professional and human relations which the IPR and IPKey staff established with the Chinese partners.
I have had rich personal experience how important such relations are and how sincere and faithful colleagues and friends our Chinese partners become. I have had the honor to have had a number of such colleagues and friends among Chinese intellectual property and copyright specialists. Professor Zheng Chengshi, former Rector of Renmin University passed away earlier and only his bust in the big entrance hall of the University welcomed me. Professor Guo Shuokang, the doyen of Chinese IP professors – who was already more than 90-year old and in bad health condition – came on the eve of the November meeting to the University (before the well-attended and lively “IP Café” program organized by the IPKey project) assisted by one of his students and by his nurse just to welcome me and hand over copies of both his new English-language publications and the Chinese translation of my Oxford University Press book on the two WIPO “Internet Treaties” the publication of which by the Renmin University Press had been arranged by him. It was heart-warming and touching; retrospectively it became even more so, when I received the news a couple of month later that he died. Fortunately, Shen Rengan, with whom I had the most frequent contacts, also because, as the head of the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) he regularly represented China and the Administration both at WIPO meetings in Geneva and at various events in China, is still among us. He had retired from NCAC but become the President of the Chinese Copyright Society, and important professional association.
While I was attending the IPkey meeting in Beijing last November, I spoke about these old colleagues and friends to the Chinese experts. After the meeting, I received a photo taken at that time from one of the young professors with the inscription: “to Professor Ficsor from one of his new old Chinese friends”.
This became for me also as a symbol of the success of the IPKey project for a double reason. First, along with the photo, the young professor also sent me a thoroughly researched and well-written draft study on the most intensively debated issue discussed at the November meeting: “extended” collective management. Intensive exchange of views and comments followed which proved again to me that – to great extent also due to these EU-China IP projects, our Chinese colleagues are now equal partners in dialogues around “roundtables” and not just some target audience of mere training programs. Second, as a result of the IPR and IPkey projects, a great number of such close partnerships and “new old” friendships have been established, which – as rich experience shows – is one of the guarantees of flourishing cooperation with this big and great country.
I have been 19th times in China, but in 2015 I may get closer to my next target number – 21, which is the most luckier one according to Hungarian superstition – because the said young professor, my “new old friend”, has invited me to present a series of lectures later in the year.